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Of Heaven and Earth

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Dave Strider found himself checking the message on his phone for what was probably the fifth time since he left the base. He wasn’t nervous or anything, hells to the no, he just didn’t want to end up going in the wrong direction and fucking up his first alone mission because he never even got to the right damn place.

He quickly scanned over the assignment before pocketing his phone once again. The whole thing should actually be relatively easy all things considered. A seemingly pretty weak spirit, it’d only been spotted a few times and should be a simple kill. He tried to ignore the fact that this was probably why they decided to let him take this one alone in the first place.

Nearing the spot they had determined the spirit was, he placed a hand on his concealed sword. He’d been through this a million times probably with either Dirk or Rose or that fucker Eridan, on targets that had been way more dangerous than the one he was after at the moment. There was no need to worry, if he was stealthy enough, it might even be a real quick in and out thing before the fucking beast could start trying to pull any god damn mind tricks.

Slowing down, he carefully peaked into the alley where Rose had pinpointed the monster. It was difficult to focus on at first, the thing was so transparent. That was a pretty good sign, looks like it was just as weak as they’d thought, and it didn’t appear to notice him any either. Its arms pulling its knees to its chest, head resting on them as it leaned against the dumpster next to it. The thing looked skinny and tiny and downright fucking pitiful.

No way was he falling for that shit.

Drawing his sword, he carefully took a silent step into the alleyway. The thing still didn’t seem to notice him any, not showing any sign of moving in the slightest. Taking an even breath, he sprinted forward; sword in front of him, hoping to end this before the spirit even realized what was happening. Fucking one shot kill the thing and get the record on fastest kill in their whole organization.


He wasn’t that lucky however, the creature having noticed him and jumped out of the way at the last moment. Although to be fair, that jumping was more of a panicked flailing forward, the spirit then having to roll away from him when Dave quickly turned to skewer it where it lay on the alley ground.

“What the hell shitting fuck!?” the thing practically screeched, desperately dodging his attacks. Dave could see its face now, skinny, with nearly sunken in cheeks and deep as hell bags under its eyes. It was still scrambling to get away from him, looking pretty fucking terrified all things considered. He pushed down any sort of pity the image of it attempted to stir in him, if there was one thing he’d learned it was never trust these things for a fucking second.

This was going to be over quick though, it had clearly not been around long enough to gather the energy it would need to actually attack him, and it wasn’t doing the best at dodging him either, especially since he’d managed to catch it so off guard. Dave could see where he’d managed to slice it a few times already. There wasn’t any blood, just tears in the creature, slowly dissolving outward from the actual cuts.

Dave could not comprehend what had happened for a moment, having been mid swipe when his sword was no longer in his hands and he was being held up tightly against a wall.

“Just what do you think you’re doing, attacking that poor, helpless guy over there?” Focusing on the thing pinning him with its arm up against his neck, Dave tried to keep himself from freaking the fuck out. Oh shit, this was not how this was supposed to go down; he was not supposed to get tangled up with this god damn guy, alone too.

“Fucking hell, let go you fucking trickster” he felt the words coming out of his mouth without any thought. The creature continued speaking as if he hadn’t said anything however.

“Attacking someone who can’t defend themselves like that is a pretty shitty thing to do, don’t you think?” the Trickster asked him, frowning slightly. Dave could feel the elbow pushing into his throat press harder against him as the creature leaned even closer.

“You’re a bully, and if there’s one thing I hate,” it started, its expression turning angry, and Dave tried not to flinch when its face shifted from one of a pretty dorky looking kid all things considered, with bright blue eyes and glasses and teeth too big for his mouth, to a mangled mess of blood and burns, small bits of metal sticking out of some of the wounds, “it’s a bully,” it finished in a growl.

Dave was pretty sure he failed on the whole not flinching thing.

Before the thing was able to inflict any lasting damage on him Dave managed to pull his legs up, kneeing the spirit and pushing him far enough away that he was able to twist out of his grip. Grabbing his sword, he caught sight of the other spirit still there, standing a few feet away and staring at them. It was holding onto a rather large gash Dave had made on its arm, and looked positively frozen in shock.

Quickly looked back over at the trickster, it was still in its hideous mangled form, offset by the huge as fuck smile on its face.

Yeah no, he was not getting into it with this thing. Sometime you just needed to cut your losses and get the fuck out of dodge. Not turning his back on either of those monsters, he flashed out of the alley, quickly starting away in the most crowded direction he could find. If there was one thing good about these things, it was that they didn’t attack in crowds.

Once he was a significant enough distance from the alley, he sighed, leaning against the side of a building and gently touching where the spirit had pressed against him, already feeling a bruise starting to form.

Concealing his weapon again, not wanting to draw any more attention to himself, Dave started back into the actual direction of their headquarters, not looking forward to explaining what had happened.

Well, there went his chance to do something on his fucking own for once.

Once he reached the base, he walked inside to find Rose sitting in the front room, going over a few papers on the couch they had set out. Overall their set up was pretty casual, they even had spare bedrooms set up in the place in case anyone wanted to crash there for the night. Well, it was either casual or the place was filled with an absolutely unhealthy amount of workaholics.

Dave crashed onto the couch next to his twin, not saying a word and just waiting for the inevitable questions. He did not have to wait long.

“So, how did it go?” Rose asked, not glancing up from her work as she did. Dave got out his phone as he answered her, starting to mindlessly mess around on the thing.

“Almost got killed,” he told her truthfully. The girl quickly looked up at that, finally giving him a once over to check if he was alright. Apparently deciding that there wasn’t anything serious, she continued her questioning.

“What happened? All reports showed it was an exceptionally weak new spirit, you should have been able to demolish it,” she told him, and Dave nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, yeah, all those reports were spot on, no worries about that. Nearly killed the thing in less than five fucking minutes, was totally smooth sailing until the god damn Trickster showed up out of nowhere,” he explained, and Rose frowned as she listened. “So yeah, I hightailed it the hell out of there because I’m not a fucking idiot,” he finished.

“That was a smart move, I’ll go let Roxy know what happened. Were you hurt any?” she asked him, and Dave shook his head.

“Nah, just a little bruised up, it’s all good,” he said, and Rose nodded before leaving the room to go inform the others about the gist of what happened. He’d have to fill out a formal report later, but no one was expected to do them as soon as they got back from a mission.

After a few minutes of laying around in their front room Aradia came in, flipping through a book that Dave was happier not knowing the contents of. Don’t get him wrong, Aradia was a great person, but she tended to be on the slightly creepy side. Oh who the fuck was he kidding everyone in this god damn joint was weird as fuck.

“Hello Dave! How did the mission go? I heard it was a weaker spirit so I’m sure you were able to take care of it in a jiffy!” she told him, and he sighed, rolling around so that he was stretched out along the couch as he answered.

“Nah, the thing got away, that fucking trickster showed up and I had to book it,” he told her, and she frowned, nodding slightly.

“Oh that’s strange, I hadn’t noticed any sign of him when scouting out this new spirit with Rose, it seems you just had some bad luck,” she said after a moment.

“Yeah, it’s all good though, the thing might end up dying anyway, it took a couple of pretty good hits. It’d be hard for the thing to trick anyone for gathering energy in its state,” he added.

“That’s good, I’ll try to see if I can get a read on it, if the trickster is gone we can send someone to finish it off,” she told him, leaving the room to head off to her office. Office might have been too professional or sane a word though, more like spiritual voodoo meditation room.

It was about a half an hour later Rose came back into the room, sitting down on his legs which were still stretched out along half of the couch. He groaned, quickly trying to push her off before resigning himself to his fate and flopping back down.

“You’ll need to file a full report before we try anything, but talking with the others I think we’re going to try to target the trickster soon. He’s grown very strong in the relatively short time since he’d first appeared, and it’s starting to get very worrisome. We don’t need someone else as powerful as Sugar or Bloodhound running around,” she announced, and Dave couldn’t help but nod in agreement at that. He’d been up against Bloodhound before with Rose, wasn’t fun. He’d never fought Sugar personally, but fuck it seemed like she’d been around forever.

“Yeah, that would be a pretty bad move on our part. Isn’t this whole thing supposed to be taking them out before we get to that point where they can easily fucking kill us without any of their damn mind games?” he asked. Rose rolled her eyes as she answered.

“Yes that is certainly a part of this; shouldn’t you know that by now?” she asked him back in a slightly joking tone.

“Just checkin, no worries,” he told her. That was pretty much the gist was what they were doing though, taking out these soul sucking monsters before they got out of hand. There was also the part where they tried to destroy the ones that already had, but those were the really dangerous missions they tried not to go on very often.

“Dirk back yet?” he asked after a moment, trying to remember if anyone else was currently out on work. Roxy and Aradia were here, Equius and Nepeta were off today, so that just left Eridan and Feferi MIA.

“Not yet, you weren’t out all that long,” she answered. Dave frowned, trying to tell himself again that Trickster was at least a two person job, no one was gonna dispute him on that one bit. If it was just that one spirit he was supposed to go after he would have had the job done no freaking problem. He almost did have the thing killed just like that.

Dave shifted, managing to get his legs out from their prison and standing up, pocketing his phone as he did so.

“I’m gonna go fill out that report now,” he offered, walking back to where they kept the forms. It always weirded him out a bit how they had such normal shit like little cubbies full of official looking forms when they were literally freaking monster hunters, but fuck, it that’s what it takes to get the job done.

He quickly started going through the paper, making sure to detail everything that had happened. It was kind of tedious bullshit at times, especially when a plan went off without a hitch, but it was important in these kinds of scenarios, when targets either got away or other contrive fuckery went on. This probably counted as both of those things. Hopefully Aradia would be able to track that thing down again and they could finish it off as soon as Trickster left the scene.

If Rose was right they would go after him soon, which was probably a smart move. The longer they waited the more they chanced him becoming even stronger than he already was. Thankfully these things didn’t seem to need to eat as much as a human, not in the slightest, but the fact was Trickster was one of the more active spirits. They needed to take him out, and soon.

It was only a matter of time.
---
He had no idea what the fuck had just happened to him. Not a single god damn clue. In fact, this was the most confused he’d been in quite some time, which considering what he’d been going through recently was really fucking saying something. He wasn’t even capable of getting his brain to function enough to move at this point, it far too occupied with trying to replay the scene of what had just happened as well as process what was going on in front of him at this very moment.

He’d been moping in an alleyway like the god damn sack of shit that he is when suddenly he was fighting for his life from some absolute maniac with a sword. Well maybe not for his life but the point still stands. He was fucking toast too; he could barely keep himself from getting skewered let alone attempt to get away or hell fight back.

But then there wasn’t anyone attacking him anymore and before he could process if it had all been a fever dream he saw that someone was pinning the sword wielding lunatic against the wall and threatening him.
Which was certainly appreciated but then this Good Samaritan had to go and add onto the fucking nightmare fuel ruling his life for the past couple of days (or really fucking years but who was thinking that far back right?) and turn into a god damn charred bleeding body, still attacking Mr. Stab-Happy over here.

Then the guy who’d been attacking him managed to get away and his very bloody hero didn’t make any move to go after him.

Karkat kept his eyes locked on this guy now, ready to start running at any point if this fucking freak show so much as looked at him the wrong way. He doubted it would do him much good, since he’d managed to overpower the dude who had clearly wreaked Karkat in pretty much no time flat, but fuck it would be worth a try.

The person still there turned back towards him, his appearance shifting back to what he’d looked like when he’d first entered the alleyway, which is to say a pretty normal looking guy all things considered. He had a large smile on his face still, but it didn’t look anywhere as gut wrenchingly terrifying as it did when he was an animated mutilated god damn corpse.

“Hey, are you alright? It looks like he gave you quite a beating,” the other person said, coming towards him slightly. Karkat practically bristled as he took a step back for every one the other guy took forward. He knew there wasn’t anything even remotely threatening about himself, all fucking skin and bones, sickly as hell and looking like he hadn’t slept in a good month at the very least, but fuck that he wasn’t going down without a fight.

“What the hell was that?” he asked, not even entirely sure what he was talking about at this point. The other boy’s smiled turned to one of concern as he finally stopped walking towards him, apparently getting the hint about keeping his distance and personal space.

“A hunter, they can be pretty dangerous if you don’t watch yourself,” he explained, although if that was supposed to make any sense to Karkat it sure as fuck failed in that respect.

“A hunter of what? What the hell are you? How did you do that?” he could feel the panic start to grip at the edges of his mind and tried desperately to push it back. If anything, he at least wasn’t feeling any shortness of breath or racing heart, but then again how the fuck would he? The other boy’s expression quickly switched to one of realization before offering Karkat a sad smile.

“Wow, you’re really new aren’t you? Have you eaten at all yet?” he asked, and this would have just managed to confuse him further if Karkat didn’t already have a sickening feeling as to what he meant. God he didn’t want to think about that, he’d been hoping it had been a hell drenched nightmare, but fuck it was real wasn’t it, it had felt way too real.

“Yeah, I have,” he finally managed to say, cursing himself when his voice shook slightly. He didn’t even know this, this whatever he was in front of him, he was not supposed to be showing weakness like that. It just looked relieved though as it answered him.

“Oh great! That wouldn’t have been a fun thing to have to explain. You should really eat again soon though, it looks like you got hurt in that fight,” he advised, and Karkat had to keep himself from actually growling at the guy he was getting so pissed. He still had no clue what was going on and this dude was not helping in the slightest.

“You still haven’t told me what the fuck you are or how the hell you did that or who the fuck that sword wielding maniac was!” he yelled, and this guy just smiled at him as he answered. Fuck no, people were not supposed to smile while he was screaming at them, that was not how this was supposed to go down. At the very least show some fucking nervousness when you did it.

“Oh well, I’m the same thing as you. You’ll be able to change your appearance once you get stronger too, and yeah I did tell you, that was a hunter, it’s not like I know his name or anything like that, I don’t really get all that chummy with people trying to kill me,” he told him, and Karkat had to take a deep breath to continue.

“Alright, fair enough, but if that’s the case, what the fuck am I?” he asked, trying not to show how relieved he was that he actually had someone to ask this to.

Ever since he died he’d been in a state of confused panic and anger that he wasn’t sure was ever going to get any better. He’d never been religious but god damn he did not expect fucking Ghost Busters to be the ones right about the afterlife. The other being had started over towards the dumpster, quickly jumping on top of it as he turned to look towards the entrance of the alleyway.

“You’re a ghost! A spirit! A specter, ghoul, apparition, whatever you want to call it, you name it! I know it can be a pretty big shock at first, but you’ll get used to it, don’t worry,” he reassured. Karkat found himself falling in a heap on the alley ground, gradually losing the strength to stay standing and yell at this guy at the same time. Fuck he was tired, you think being dead would fix that problem but no.

The other spirit was in front of him in a heartbeat, concern clear on his face. Karkat wondered slightly if that was his real face, since apparently he could change it however he wanted. He decided at the very least those eyes had to be altered, they were practically glowing they were so blue (the teeth were probably real though, he couldn’t think of any reason why someone would give themselves buck teeth. Kind of worked for him though, maybe he knew that but why the fuck was he thinking about this god damn it he was getting distracted).

“Oh gosh, we have to get you something to eat soon, you’re really weak,” the other boy insisted, starting up away from him. Karkat tried to keep himself from grimacing as he thought about what he must have meant, but tried to tell himself that he didn’t know if he was right for sure.

“Fuck, when you say eat, do you mean what I think you mean? Like, you’re not gonna just run to the nearest Wendy’s and get me a god damn chicken sandwich are you?” he asked, and the spirit was laughing slightly as he answered.

“No, of course not! Although that does sound pretty good, but we need energy from people’s souls, yeah. You said you’ve done it before,” He answered, and Karkat couldn’t help the shudder that ran through his body.

“I didn’t know what I was fucking doing though! It was just god damn instincts and suddenly they weren’t moving anymore and just fuck!” he yelled, hands tangled up in his hair and he folded even farther in on himself. He was having an honest to god panic attack right now and those weird ass wounds that fucker had inflicted on him were getting bigger and more painful and weren’t helping him in the slightest. How the hell do you even cut a fucking spirit with a sword in the first place? Shouldn’t he have like phased right through that or something? The other spirit sighed slightly as he started talking again.

“I’m sorry your so upset about it, but that’s the only way you’re gonna survive this,” he told him, and Karkat’s head snapped up and he practically snarled at the other boy.

“I’m not a fucking killer!” he insisted.

“I’ll do all the hard stuff okay, you wouldn’t be able to in your state anyway. Just eat what I bring you, alright?” he said, and after a few moments Karkat let out a sigh. He wasn’t saying yes, but he supposed he wasn’t saying no either.

Guilt was pooling around inside of him that he quickly tried to snuff out, because fuck he did not want to die. Again, he supposed.

“That guy called you Trickster?” he muttered after a moment, watching the look of relief on the other’s face as he took his change of subject as permission for him to do whatever it was he was going to in order to get him something to eat. Which Karkat supposed it kind of was.

“Yeah! Pretty cool huh? You can just call me John though, if you want,” he told him, and Karkat sighed as he nodded.

“Alright, sure, John, that’ll work. I guess you can just, go do whatever it is you need to,” he muttered, and John smiled brightly as he nodded, walking towards the entrance of the alleyway.

“Yeah sure thing! Just stay here alright, I’ll be right back, and then we should probably leave before those hunters get it in their heads to come back and finish you off,” John told him, and Karkat couldn’t help but nod in agreement. Fuck he did not want to have to deal with that guy again, especially if it was just going to make him have to eat more, hell no.

Once John was gone, Karkat completely hunched in over himself, trying to rationalize everything that had just happened, but fuck if that wasn’t nearly impossible. Fucking hell, he was waiting for that guy to come
back after killing someone so that he could devour their god damn soul like some shitty Disney demon.

He didn’t fucking want this, it wasn’t fair god damn it!

But then again, when the hell had anything been?

Chapter Text

“He’s in here!” Karkat could hear John’s voice call as he returned to the alleyway. There was another person with him as he turned the corner, a middle aged looking lady, and the two were wearing matching looks of concern. The woman stepped forward, kneeling before Karkat as she started to look him over. Before the woman could say anything or he was able to ask what the fuck was going on, thinking maybe John had managed to find someone who could help him without requiring any god damn fucking souls, the woman collapsed.

Looking up, John was standing right behind her, a rather amused smile on his face as he wiped the tiniest bit of blood off of his knuckles.

“Well, that was easy, eat up!” John said happily, and Karkat swore if he still had a stomach he would have fucking vomited all over the god damn alley.

“You just fucking killed her!” he yelled, not able to get his mind passed that fact at the moment. He could see the other boy roll his eyes slightly as he answered.

“No, she’s still alive. If I killed her there wouldn’t have been anything for you to eat,” he explained, and Karkat could feel himself start to shake again. Fucking fuck he couldn’t do this he could not do this shit he just couldn’t!

“Whoa, calm down dude,” John said, noticing the clear panic starting to run through him. Karkat’s head was pretty much pressed against the ground, with his arms wrapped tight around his middle as he desperately tried to listen and chill out for fuck’s sake. It was just a difficult thing to do when you were basically being told you needed to kill this random person in front of you in order to survive.

“Come on, just stop thinking so much, you’ll be fine, just remember we need to do this fast before those hunters come back,” John said, which managed to knock him out of the blind panic he’d been stuck in for a moment there. Shit, that was right wasn’t it, that dude would probably be back with god damn reinforcements and they needed to leave and he didn’t want to die again god damn it.

Karkat felt himself reach out and grab onto the woman, his hands phasing into her as he felt himself pull. It was a weird as fuck sensation, almost like he could feel blood flowing through his body again, only hyperaware of it, a slight rush through every inch of his body it traveled along, feeling a heaviness there that grounded him and started to eat away at the weariness that had been nearly overcoming him.

He wasn’t sure how long it took for the energy to start to wane, but once it did he slowly pushed himself up so that he was sitting back on his knees. He quickly looked over at John so that he could avoid staring at the body in front of him and realize what it was that had just happened.

“Are you feeling better now? Looks like your wounds healed up,” John asked, and Karkat looked down at his body to see that indeed the weird as fuck cuts that had shredded him like he’d been made of paper were no longer there, and he couldn’t help but let out a sign of relief. He was pretty sure he couldn’t actually breathe anymore, but fuck it was probably muscle memory or habit or some shit like that.

”Yeah, we need to get out of here, right?” he asked, and John quickly nodded.

“Right, let’s go,” he said, and Karkat managed to stand up and start following the other spirit out of the alleyway. He was starting to feel paranoid as shit as they walked through a few crowded areas, but eventually they ended up in what seemed to be a pretty deserted part of the town. Once they were inside of an abandoned building shell, the thing looked like it’d been burned pretty badly at one point John turned towards him.

“So, I’ve done all of this for you and you haven’t even bothered to tell me your name, pretty rude if you ask me,” he said, and Karkat practically snarled at him.

“Well I’m fucking sorry, I’ve been in a bit of shock if you don’t mind,” he growled. John just laughed though, walking over to sit on what looked like it was probably a desk at one point. Karkat was convinced that the thing could collapse the second he put any weight on it, but the husk of wood and rust didn’t look like it gave at all.

He them remembered that he was talking to a god damn ghost and felt like an idiot.

“I was just joking dude, no need to get all in a tizzy about it. I do want to know what your name is though,” John reassured.

“Karkat Vantas,” he said, figuring this was not someone he wanted to piss off, especially since he really had helped him so much already. John smiled as he nodded.

“Awesome, say, do you have any idea how long it’s been since you died?” he asked, and Karkat frowned as he tried to figure out exactly. He’d been in such panic that he really hadn’t been paying much attention to the time.

“I guess like a week or two at most,” he muttered.

“That’s what I thought, it can be pretty hard at first, but don’t worry, you get used to it all after a while.”

“How long have you been dead?” Karkat found himself asking without thinking, not sure if this was a rude thing to ask or not. Well, John asked him so it couldn’t have been that bad. It probably wasn’t a good thing to ask just how he died though, even if he was wondering about it. He figured John was thinking the same thing about him, but fuck that he didn’t want to talk about it yet. Or ever, preferably.

“Ten years now, I think,” John told him, and Karkat couldn’t keep the surprise off his face, he figured it’d been a while, but he hadn’t thought it was that long. John started laughing at his expression as he continued. “Yeah, sorry if I came off as older, I’m actually kind of new at all this.”

“What do you mean new? How fucking old are some ghosts out there?” he asked, almost not wanting to know. John had no way of knowing that however and happily began telling him.

“Gosh, I think the oldest person I’ve met is from like, the 1600s-1700s, I guess. There really aren’t many that old that I’ve met though, but it pretty much ranges from then to one or two weeks ago with you,” he explained.

“Holy shit. Holy fucking shit are you fucking with me right now? I swear if you are god damn messing with me I am going to make sure you die again because I cannot deal with this kind of asshattery right now,” he told him, feeling on the very edge of an exceptionally long rant.

“No I’m not shitting with you right now. I mean I don’t see how that’s such a surprising thing, we’re ghosts, of course there’s going to be some from a few hundred years ago,” John said in what Karkat supposed was an attempt to calm him down. Which, yeah okay that actually made a lot of sense but he still felt he had a right to be a little bit confused and freaked out about the whole thing.

“Shouldn’t there be fucking billions of ghosts running around then? I mean normal people can fucking see you too don’t you think this would have gotten a little bit of attention?” he asked.

“Not everyone become one, duh.”

“Oh, so I’m just one of the lucky most likely literally god damned few who couldn’t just die like a normal fucking person,” Karkat lamented, dropping his face into his hands. Of course it was something like that; even in death he could not catch a break.

“You were one of the ones angry enough, more likely,” John said, swinging his legs back and forth. The desk below him didn’t seem affected at all, but Karkat remembered how he’d rammed that guy and pressed him to the wall, so he was capable of actually touching shit. He guessed this was probably one of those things he could control like what he looked like. Both things would probably be pretty useful if he could figure them out.

“I’m always fucking angry, what the shit does that have to do with this?” Karkat asked, not understanding if this guy was just making fun of him or actually meant something by that. The fact that he apparently went by Trickster to some was not helping things.

“Well then, sounds like you were doomed from the start if that’s the case,” he said, which didn’t help Karkat figure out what he meant by that at all.

“Are you telling me that you become a fucking ghosts through pure frothing rage?”

“You got it! Heh, but yeah, most of us didn’t have the cleanest deaths, you’re more likely to become a spirit if you’re not all that content with how you died,” John explained, and Karkat found himself nodding. Yeah, that actually made a lot of sense. Honestly, what the other spirit had said about his being doomed from the start was pretty fucking true.

Karkat stared at him for a moment, unable to keep himself from wondering what had happened to have him end up like this too. If he hadn’t seen how furious he’d been with that god damn hunter, it would have been hard to imagine this fun loving kid being angry enough when he died to turn into some vengeful spirit.

“Anyway! You really have a lot to learn Karkat, that hunter would have absolutely destroyed you if I hadn’t showed up. I can’t keep catching food for you either, at least not forever. It’d make them come after me even more than they already are, ya know?” John started, and Karkat couldn’t find it in himself to argue with the kid. He was pretty right, after all. Especially about him not really being all that well at defending himself.

“About that, how the fuck was that douche even able to cut me if I’m a god damn ghost, shouldn’t the sword have like, phased right through me or something?” Karkat found himself asking the question that had been on his mind earlier right after the fight.

“You’re right, most normal weapons wouldn’t actually hurt you. The thing is the hunters have enchanted theirs, or else they would have a really hard time actually hunting us,” he explained, and Karkat groaned as he leaned against the old wall behind him.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me? Enchanted? Good god, what the fuck is this? Some sort of messed up fairy tale?” he complained, because seriously this was getting fucking ridiculous. At least there had been the comfort, no matter how small and completely not on his mind when it was happening, that when he died he wouldn’t have to deal with any more bullshit.

“I know, but really that’s the only way I know how to describe it, so just go with it I guess,” John told him. Karkat sighed, sliding down the wall in order to fully demonstrate just how done he was with all of this shit. At the very least, the other spirit had the common fucking decency to at least look sympathetic about his situation.

“Well, alright if you fucking say so I guess I’ll just through all judgment to the wind and believe it because why the hell not, am I right? So, what exactly are we supposed to do now? I mean, I don’t know, I’m fucking dead, what the hell do ghosts even do amuse themselves for several centuries?” He asked, it starting to sink in that there was a chance he might be around for fucking ever now. Okay, it was a hell of a lot more likely that he was going to end up double killed by those hunters but fuck there was still a chance.

“Lots of stuff I guess, but I haven’t been around for several centuries so I’m not really the best person to ask, you’d want to go to one of the Scourge Sisters for that,” John told him, just enough of a playful tint to his voice to make Karkat decide there was no way he was going to go talk to whoever these people-ghosts-things were.

“Alright, I’m not going to fucking do that,” he said, leaving absolutely no room for any argument. For some reason this only caused the other spirit to chuckle slightly.

“Seriously though, is there any way I can prevent being skewered by a god damn magical sword?” Karkat asked, watching John’s smile turned into a small frown as he seemed to actually think the question over.

“I mean, you really don’t know how to fight do you?” John asked, and Karkat rolled his eyes as he answered.

“I never exactly got the chance to learn self-defense from a hospital bed, no,” he snapped. The other boy didn’t say anything for a moment, instead Karkat could tell John was looking him over, probably taking in how god damn skinny and sick he looked but fuck that. He could draw whatever conclusions he wanted to.

“Well, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway since you’re nowhere near strong enough to actually attack anyone,” John finally told him.

“How the hell do I get stronger then?” Karkat asked. Before John was able to answer him, the other spirit seemed to focus on something a little ways passed him, a bright smile quickly lighting up his face. Karkat instantly spun around to face whatever it was John was looking at, because fuck if he hadn’t had enough surprises for one day.

“Jade! What’s up?” John asked the girl standing a few feet away from Karkat. She was looking back and forth between the two boys and fuck Karkat didn’t even know where to begin. She had white furry ears on the top of her head and holy shit he was pretty sure he just saw a tail swishing behind her. When she started to speak he could see fangs where there were supposed to be teeth.

“Hey John, who’s this?” she asked, motioning to Karkat. He instantly scrambled to his feet and took a few steps away from the wall, not wanting to end up cornered or something. John seemed pretty happy to see her, but that didn’t mean he was about to trust this girl.

“Oh! This is Karkat! I found him being attacked by some hunters; he’s like super new,” John explained, hoping off of the desk he’d been sitting on as he did so. Karkat didn’t bother looking back at him, still too weary about taking his eyes off of this new individual.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Karkat. That’s funny, I was just dealing with some hunters myself,” Jade told them. Karkat nodded, attempting to get himself to relax and failing for the most part. Whatever, relaxation is a pretty much nonexistent feeling for him anyway.

“You’re a spirit too?” he managed to ask after a moment, and the girl nodded. “For how long?” Karkat added on, wondering if this was one of the people John had talked about living for centuries. He hoped that she wouldn’t get pissed off by the question, but the smile on her face never faltered as she answered him.

“I’d say about 30 or 40 years or so, you kind of lose track,” she said.

“Yeah, Jade’s an old lady,” John teased. The next thing Karkat knew Jade was next to John hitting him. He never saw her walk over there or anything, she was just there. He wasn’t able to keep himself from flinching when she suddenly disappeared.

“Am not, you jerk!” she yelled as she hit him. John was simply laughing as he held his arms up to block some of the swats.

This was fucking weird. They had probably killed hundreds of people and they were acting like a couple of normal kids. They probably expected him to get as used to all of this after a while as they were but god fucking damn it that didn’t seem like it would be likely. But oh hell what if he does end up just all hunky dory about all of this after a few years, conditioned into not giving two shits about having to kill people to survive. That was the only way he was ever going to be able to survive too fuck fuck fuck.

“Karkat, are you okay?” John was asking him. Snapping out of his panic, he hadn’t even noticed that he’d drawn his arms around himself and had started to shake. Fucking hell, he had to get a hold of himself.

“I’m fucking fine! Hell, everything’s just peachy, I always wanted to be a soul sucking monster!” he yelled, very aware that he was still losing it but unable to calm himself down. His arms were still wrapped tightly around his middle and he’d ended up leaning back against the wall for support.

The two other spirits were staring at him, wearing twin looks of uncertainty. Slowly, John took a few steps towards him, but didn’t make any move to reach out and touch him thankfully, as that probably wouldn’t have ended all that well.

“Hey, it’s okay to be freaked out about this stuff at first, it’s a big change. Plus you did just die a little while ago, that’s not fun, we know,” John attempted to comfort him, and fuck it all it kind of worked. Slowly he managed to nod and remove the death grip he had on himself. John was beaming at him when he looked up, but like hell was he going to smile back. He was not in a very smiley mood. That didn’t seem to bother the other boy any as he turned back towards Jade.

“Yeah, so just try not to worry about the details of everything going on so much right now, Jade and I’ll help until you’re feeling more confident about all of this,” he said, Jade nodding in agreement as well.

“Alright, that, yeah, that would help I guess,” Karkat managed to mutter.

God, maybe he was right and he needed to just forget about all of the rather horrifying things that were going on. At least not think about them until he was in a state where he was less likely to have a full blown panic attack, which honestly he didn’t see that ever happening, but fuck it. Just as long as he didn’t acknowledge it until he had to eat again, he could probably do okay.

Until then he wasn’t going to think about it, no matter how hard that actually was.

---

After Dave had finished filling out the report he put it in with the rest of the completed files. It looked like there was only one other report in at the moment, since they tended to get looked over pretty fast. It wasn’t like they had a super huge organization either with millions of reports. There was maybe about four or five in max at a time.

Dave decided to head back to where Roxy probably was, if she hadn’t left her office after Rose had talked to her. Along the way he ended up passing Sollux, who barely looked his way as he hurried down the hall. Dave shrugged it off, since he was a pretty weird guy all things considered, and chances are if he was out of his room he was trying to get back to his room as soon as possible. He didn’t end up seeing anyone else, but of course the chances of running into Bro or Mom were nil if they didn’t want to see you.

Barely knocking before entering, both Roxy and Feferi looked up at him as he walked in. The room’s walls were painted pink, and there was a fuckton of wizard memorabilia scattered all over the place. Roxy was sitting down at her desk, a few papers scattered around that she didn’t seem all that bothered with, most of them pushed aside so that Feferi could sit atop the desk herself.

“Hey Dave! Rose told us about what happened with Trickster showing up,” Feferi said, and he nodded, closing the door behind him as he stepped farther into the room.

“Yeah, just finished up the report. Aradia said that she’s gonna see if she can track the new spirit down so we can finish it off once Trickster leaves,” Dave explained. Roxy nodded, twisting a pen around her fingers as she did.

“Oh, that’s good, hopes it works,” Roxy said.

“Rose said that we might be going after Trickster soon?” Dave asked, and Feferi nodded.

“It’s definitely something we need to start thinking about. He’s strong, but most of his power comes from fooling people, so he’s nowhere near invincible. If we don’t strike soon we might miss our chance to destroy it without anyone getting seriously injured,” Feferi explained. Dave couldn’t help but agree with that. They didn’t really know just how fast a spirit could gain strength, but the Trickster was definitely at a threshold where he would just be tougher and tougher to beat every day they put it off.

“We’ll have to run it by Bro or Mom first,” he said, already wondering who would end up on this mission. There was a chance that Bro would go out on his own to try to take him out, but that didn’t happen very often, or if it did they didn’t really hear about it. It was more likely that Dirk or Equius would be sent out together, maybe with someone else like Aradia or Roxy just in case.

Roxy made a move to say something, but was cut off by the door opening harshly, nearly hitting Dave in the side. Rose was standing in the doorframe, a frown on her face.

“Feferi, we need you,” She said simply, and the other girl quickly pushed herself off of the desk, a worried look instantly overtaking her face.

“Did something happen?” She asked, and Rose nodded.

“Eridan again,” the blonde explained, and Feferi sighed as she quickly went out with her to the front room. Dave and Roxy followed behind, not saying anything as they wondered just how bad it might be. Rose didn’t seem all that freaked though, but it was hard to tell with that girl sometimes.

When they reached the front room they could see Eridan lying on the couch, tightly holding a large gash in his side. Dirk was standing a few feet away, sword still out as he nodded at the group that had entered the room.

Feferi had grabbed an aid kit on the way and was kneeling next to the bleeding boy in a heartbeat, quickly starting to inspect the wound as she pulled out what she needed to stitch him up. She was the one who dealt with any of the injuries when they inevitably happened.

Bro and Dirk were also weirdly good with closing up wounds and such, but Dave didn’t like to think about that too much.

“What happened this time?” Feferi asked, wiping at the wound with disinfectant. Dave couldn't remember who Dirk had said they were going after today, if he’d ever told him to begin with. Even still he could imagine several ways in which Eridan had managed to get into this position, especially since this was not the first time something like this had happened. Dude was great at demolishing spirits went sent out on solo missions, but he always tended to fuck things up when he had to go out with someone else.

“That fuckin dog bitch bit me, what’s it look like?” Eridan snapped through the pain. Feferi didn’t even flitch at his outburst, simply rummaging through the aid kit to pull out some thread and a needle. Dave couldn’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for the guy, stitches fucking sucked. This would also take him out of work for a while, which meant him moping around the base until he was healed.

“Bloodhound managed to get the drop on him. Had to get him out of there before she could do anything worse,” Dirk spoke up. Feferi nodded, pressing Eridan down when he started to squirm. It was obvious the only reason he wasn’t arguing was because the girl would start hitting him if he began moving around much more than he already was.

“Well that totally sucks, both spirits got away today,” Roxy complained. Dave twitched when he saw Dirk’s head shoot up, actual surprise on his face as he looked at him.

“How the hell did you manage to screw that up?” he asked Dave, the younger boy practically bristling despite any attempts at staying calm.

“Sorry, I’d like to see you take on Trickster single handedly then get back to me,” he snapped, watching as Dirk’s eyebrow rose above his shades in question.

“We didn’t send you after the Trickster, what are you talking about?” Dirk asked.

“Didn’t stop him from showing up,” Dave told him. The other boy actually nodded, backing down at that. Besides him, Rose said something about telling Aradia what had happened before leaving the room, Roxy going off behind her without a word. Dave decided to stay until either Feferi finished stitching up Eridan or something more interesting came along.

He wanted to be there when they started talking about the Trickster mission or at the very least if Aradia came back and said they could go after that new spirit he wanted to be the one to go out and finish him. If it wasn’t dead already, that is.

Feferi snapped the aid kit shut once she was finished with the stitches, telling Eridan not to move around too much at the moment or he would pop them. The boy grumbled about already knowing that, but Dave didn’t blame her for warning him. He ended up popping his stitches about half of the time, after all.

“We’ll figure out what to do about Trickster and Bloodhound soon, but we’ll have to go over all of your reports first,” Feferi said as she stood up and Dirk nodded in agreement.

“I’ll get on that,” he said, walking past Dave in order to go fill out the report form. Eridan would have to complete one before they could do anything, but he would have to rest a little before he could sit up enough to write it.

“I’m going to go talk with the other girls,” Feferi let them know as she left the room in the direction of Aradia’s study as well, and both boys still in the room nodded. Dave hesitated for a moment before deciding not to follow her and instead took a seat on one of the many chairs in the room, since the couch was now occupied. Eridan barely spared him a glance as he sighed and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Dave had his own in his hand in an instant as well.

There wouldn’t be anyone else going out for the rest of the day, since it took a while to track down these spirits to begin with, and whenever someone ended up injured like this everyone tended to take a while to see what had happened in order to make sure everything was okay.

Of course with this being the fourth or fifth time Eridan had come back with some sort of injury it wasn’t that big of a deal. The dude just had to try to show off in front of others and get himself hurt. It was almost pathetic with how repetitive it was getting.

It was maybe an hour later when Rose came back into the room. Looking up, Dave saw that somewhere along the line Eridan had managed to fall asleep.

“Were you guys able to combine all your spooky powers to track down that new spirit?” he asked, and Rose rolled her eyes as she pulled up a seat beside him.

“Yes actually,” she started, and Dave perked up. Before he was able to ask her where the thing was she continued, “But, he’s still near Trickster, and it seems that Bloodhound is actually close by as well, so it would definitely be a bad idea to go after such a weak spirit right now,” Rose finished. Dave groaned as he leaned his chair onto its back legs.

“What the hell, we really need to start taking out some of these bigger threats,” he complained, and to his surprise Rose actually nodded in agreement. Usually she didn’t go about admitting he had a point quite so easily. Didn’t really mesh all that well with her desire to fuck with him every waking moment of his life.

“It’s not official yet, but I’m almost positive about us going after Trickster soon. I imagine you’d be interested in that?” Rose asked, and Dave let the front legs of his chair hit the floor as he shrugged, not about to show that he was too torn up about it one way or another, because he wasn’t. It’d be cool if he could help out with that mission seeing as it’d managed to screw up his last one, but no big deal.

“If they want me to come along sure I’d be all for it, but that’s up for Bro to decide,” Dave said. Rose nodded before changing the subject.

“There isn’t going to be much else going on today, you can head home if you want to,” she told him. Dave knew she was right, if anything the fact that he’d been sitting in here for the past hour doing jack shit proved that without her having to say a god damn word. He wasn’t really feeling being the first one to head out today though and shook his head.

“Nah, I’ll wait for you to finish up,” he told her.

“How kind of you,” Rose answered, the sarcasm clear as day in her voice.

"Would you two mind shuttin the fuck up for one lousy minute? Some people here are tryin to sleep!” Eridan spat at them from across the room.

“You can’t sleep all day dude, you need to fill out that report so the bosses can figure out what to do next,” Dave told him, and Eridan carefully turned so that his back was facing the two siblings as he answered.

“Fuckin hell, nearly give my life for this shitty job, I think I deserve a bit of a break if I say so myself Strider,” Eridan fought back. Rose was rolling her eyes as Dave answered him, because seriously sometimes this dude was ridiculous. When you got down to it though, he wasn’t a bad guy, and actually pretty fucking good at his job when he would focus on what he was supposed to be doing. They wouldn’t have let him join otherwise.

“You’re the one who begged to have us let you join, bro,” Dave answered back.

“Lies and slander, where do you even get off speakin such blatant untruths.”

“Just telling it like I see it man. Rose, you ready to head out yet?” Dave asked, standing up and stretching his arms up over his head.

“Just let me grab my bag in my office,” his sister said, and Dave nodded, making sure his sword was concealed for when they left. Their house wasn’t very far from here but you could never be too sure.

Once Rose came back the two said goodbye to Eridan as they left, the boy groaning out his response.

“So, what did this new spirit look like?” Rose asked as they walked. Dave shrugged as he shifted his hands into his pockets.

“I don’t know, was kind of hard to see too much detail with how transparent the thing was. Skinny as fuck though, pretty sickly looking actually. Black hair, can’t really remember anything else,” he answered. Rose nodded, before stopping in her tracks. Dave found himself walking a few steps forward before realizing and turning back to look at his twin.

“What’s up?” he asked, noticing that she was staring at something across the street from them. Looking over, he wasn’t quite able to pinpoint whatever it was she was focused on.

“There’s a spirit over there,” she answered, turning her head away as she started to walk forward once again. Dave quickly started after her, looking back between the area she’d been staring at and her.

“Shit, do we go after it? Which one is it?” he asked, not sure how she could know this besides just recognizing the spirit.

“I believe the codename is Vampire, and I don’t think we should, especially at this time of night without anyone knowing about it,” Rose reasoned. Hesitantly Dave nodded, looking back one last time to see if he could figure out which one it was. He’d never had a run in with Vampire, but Rose had, so it made sense that she’d recognized the spirit. When he turned forward, he saw that they were close to home now, and couldn’t help but wonder if it was just a coincidence that this spirit had showed up so near.

“It might be planning to kill someone tonight though, should we really risk that?” he asked, knowing he was arguing more for the sake of his conscious on letting one more of these things go today.

“I’ll agree it’s not ideal, but we don’t want one or both of us injured if we’re going to want to help with taking down Trickster any. I believe that he is the bigger threat in this as well, we have many more reports of deaths that seem to be attributed to him than to Vampire,” Rose said, and yeah she was definitely right on that point. There was probably a reason Dave had never had a run in with this one, and that was because all things considered it really didn’t seem to mess with much.

“Alright you win, but we should let Roxy and Dirk know about this when they get home,” Dave relented, which they both knew was going to happen, especially since they’d just reached the house. Locking the gate behind them, Dave stood there for a few moments, scanning the dark street and trying to see if anyone had followed them. That didn’t seem to be the case though, and he reluctantly headed into the house with his sister.

Locking the front door as well, Dave quickly headed upstairs and into his room, flopping down on his bed the second he got within range. All things considered, today pretty much sucked.

Hopefully tomorrow they would start making plans to take out Trickster, and he’d get a chance to finish off that new spirit, and things would start looking up again.

Chapter Text

When Dave went into work the next morning he found Eridan was still on the couch, although it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to do anything too useful for some time. Whenever he was cooped up like this, he tried to help Rose and the others with the tracking and prep of weapons and such, with varying degrees of success.

Without saying anything to the other boy, Dave started back towards the offices. According to Rose, Dirk and Roxy had left early in the morning. He hadn't gotten a chance to ask either of them if there’d been any solid plans made about who would go after Trickster before they left.

Before he was able to make it back to either of their rooms he found himself jumping back to avoid the person who’d appeared in his path. His hand twitched towards his sword instinctively, but he didn’t go through with actually drawing it.

“Sup kid?” Bro said, and Dave shrugged, making the split second decision to ask him about the upcoming mission instead of waiting to find someone else. Most decisions with Bro were split second decisions.

“Not much, was wondering about all this talk about heading out to destroy Trickster,” he said, Bro’s face as impassive as ever. Whenever he thought talking to Dirk was bad, having a conversation with this guy always put it back into perspective.

“Was gonna put Dirk and Equius on it,” he said simply. Dave nodded, having thought that would have been the most likely option.

“Right, sounds good,” he said, trying not to let any of the slight disappointment of not getting go out on this mission show. The fact that it was Trickster’s fault that he’d had to hightail it from what was supposed to be a simple job did not sit right with his pride. Of course, Bro could see through that shit like Dave had just thrown the biggest fucking tantrum one could imagine, because Bro could read god damn minds. That was really the only explanation Dave had that satisfied everything he knew from growing up with the dude.

“If you think it’d help they could probably use a third person,” Bro said, and Dave found himself nodding, irritated that he saw right through him but fuck it if it got him what he wanted for once.

“Sure thing, don’t want to risk someone else getting taken out of the ring right after Eridan folding up,” Dave reasoned. Bro nodded just slightly, and when the younger boy blinked he was gone. Dave rolled his eyes, sighing in irritation, because seriously, was that really necessary every god damn time? Apparently yes because without fail the dude was harder to spot than a spirit, and he was pretty sure those things can turn invisible or some shit.

Putting that behind him, he started towards Dirk’s office. Since he was going to be in on this thing he’d better let them know, and also figure out when they were planning to head out and all that good stuff.

He didn’t bother to knock when he entered the room, knowing it pissed the older boy off to no end. Sure, Dirk usually got him back in much worse ways, but that wasn’t his focus at the moment.

“Yo, Bro says I’m on with you and Equius for the Trickster mission,” Dave said as he walked in. Dirk didn’t look up from his work, typing away at the laptop resting on his legs since the desk he was sitting at was cluttered to the max. Instead he simply nodded, although from the slight downward curve of his lips Dave could see he was pissed about the whole barging in thing.

“Fine by me,” he said curtly.

“When are we heading out?” Dave pressed, wondering how long he had to shit around doing nothing. Or prepare he guessed, he could probably do that too.

“Once Rose gives the word we’re good,” Dirk answered, and yeah that made sense. They had to figure out where he was and if it was safe to head out before they could actually do anything.

“Cool, where’s the big guy at, anyway?” he asked, wondering as to where the third member of their party was. He had to be honest, Equius was a weird as fuck guy, even for their little group, but he wasn’t bad or anything.

“Most likely getting ready like a sensible person,” Dirk said, and Dave had to keep himself from rolling his eyes at the jab.

“Alright, I’ll take a hint, let me know when we’re going,” he said, leaving the office before the older boy could say anything else.

Dave tried to think of what he needed for this job. Trickster was strong, not the strongest, but definitely someone to be worried about, or else they wouldn’t be in this predicament. He already had his sword strapped to his side, and Equius would have the emergency supplies to patch anyone up long enough to get them back to the base.

Really, besides the actual physical fighting, most of it was psychological. Those things were all about manipulation; it was how they made most of their kills, luring people in who thought they needed help usually, before freezing them in fear and attacking.

Of course, there was some variation in this pattern. Spider was strong enough to just straight up jump people, skipping the whole luring them in step. Casanova charmed people to their deaths. The Ringmaster, well shit, he wasn’t even sure if they knew what the fuck that thing did. Whatever it was, it was probably freaky as fuck and Dave would rather he didn’t know, honestly.

Before he managed to reach the living room, he saw Rose heading his way.

“Hey, if you got news on Trickster I’m going now too,” he cut her off before she could get to Dirk’s office. She stopped, staring at him as she raised an eyebrow.

“Of course you are. Well then, we’ve pinpointed the spirit. It seems that the one you’d been after yesterday is still with it, but with the three of you going that should not pose any problem,” she filled him in. Dave nodded, because yeah that really wouldn’t affect much, since the thing was so weak. Frankly, it was probably a good thing since they could take it out while they were there.

“Sounds good, I’ll go let Dirk know we’re ready to move out,” he said. Rose told him that she would go grab Equius for them and turned to leave.

Heading back into the room, this time Dirk looked up in irritation when Dave barged back in. Before the other boy could say anything he started, “Rose found him, time to head out,” he said, turning back around and shutting the door behind him.

When he reached the front room Equius was already there, along with Nepeta. The small girl seemed annoyed that she wasn’t getting to go, which made sense since her and Equius were usually sent out as a pair. It started out with him supposed to have been training her, but somehow the two ended up as one of their most powerful duos.

“Dirk’s coming,” Dave told him, assuming that Rose would have already told the guy that he was on the mission now as well. Equius nodded, still more preoccupied with calming Nepeta down than addressing him. She quickly noticed him however, and seemed distracted from whatever the two had been arguing about

“Good morning Dave!” she said happily, and he couldn’t help but smile the slightest bit at her enthusiasm. Sometimes it was easy to forget how fucking deadly the girl could be when she was acting like some combination of a literal ray of sunshine and a cat.

“Morning,” he said, not able to get anything else out before Dirk appeared beside him.

“You all ready?” the blond asked, and both Dave and Equius nodded. Rose had handed Equius the information on where Trickster was, and the two brothers quickly went over it as the three started out of the base. Nepeta wished them luck on their way out and Eridan had called out from the couch for them to try not to get themselves ‘bloody killed’ in his words.

The walk was mostly silent, none of them particularly talkative. Okay that was a blatant as all fuck lie, both him and Dirk were nearly impossible to shut up once they really got going, but the thing was you had to get them going first. Equius was most certainly not the person to do that, at least not while on a mission. He was always saying how he liked to keep things as professional as possible, which was pretty funny since Dave was pretty sure the majority of the missions he and Nepeta went out on ended up in ‘no. yes. no. yes.’ arguments.

They did end up going over a basic strategy, which mainly boiled down to catching the spirit as off guard as they could and ending it quickly. Equius would head in first, and then Dave and Dirk. As long as they could corner the thing, they should be good. Its god damn mind tricks wouldn’t work as well on them as they would a normal person, they knew what to expect.

Finally, the three reached the destination Rose had set for them, finding some burned out husk of a building. Dave was pretty sure that it had once been a school, but fuck he was pretty young when it had burned down, and if he was right it was a high school too so not really on his radar at the time. Dirk would probably know more about it being older, but he wasn’t invested enough to actually ask him.

“Give me four minutes before heading inside,” Equius told them, slipping the gloves he wore on so that he could actually hit the monsters without his fists going right through them. The two brothers nodded, staying where they were when he started in. Dave quickly pulled out his phone to check the time, noticing that Dirk was looking at his watch as well.

When exactly four minutes had passed the two started in without a word, following the loud sounds of things being smashed that was most likely Equius’ head start.

Heading up to the second floor, the two reached what was probably a classroom at one time. Looking inside they saw that the spirit was on the run, it managing to just barely avoid Equius’ fists as it flashed across the room.

“Oh Jesus fuck there’s more of them!” a voice practically screeched, and Dave found his head snapping towards the other spirit still there. It was pressed up against the wall, and it was definitely the one from the other day. The wounds he’d managed to inflict on it were gone, which pretty much only meant one thing.

He wasn’t sure how it’d managed to kill someone on its own in the state he’d left it, but it was just weird as shit imagining these things helping each other. Of course, they’d seen it in the past, but that didn’t make it any less freaky.

“Fucking hell no, not you again,” it said, eyes widening when it focused on Dave. He couldn’t help but be a little bit proud that the monster remembered him and was god damn terrified to boot, as it should be.

He quickly turned his attention away back to the main focus of their mission though, knowing that they needed to take care of Trickster first. The weak spirit’s shouts had alerted it to their presence, so they didn’t quite have as much of an element of surprise as they would have liked.

The brothers ran in together, swords drawn and heading straight to where Trickster had moved to dodge Equius. It managed to slip away from Dave’s swipe, although Dirk caught his side before it could twist away.

“Well, this really isn’t all that fair, three against one,” it complained. It had yet to shift its looks into something grotesque, with despite the initial shock it caused tended to help Dave focus on what monsters these things are.

The two slowly managed to heard the spirit closer to Equius without its notice. When he did see the huge guy barreling towards him, he didn’t have enough time to dodge before the fist slammed into his side, sending him flying across the room.

When it pulled itself back up, it looked absolutely pissed, and Dave felt a slight chill run up his back.

“This just isn’t going to work, I’m not stupid you know,” it spat as it dodged another attack. Like hell were they going to just stand around while it spoke, talking was so not a free action here. Dave saw that it turned to look at the other spirit, who was still standing there staring at the scene like an idiot.

“Run,” Trickster said, a smile already playing on its lips that had Dave’s stomach drop in anticipation.

When he blinked, suddenly he was surrounded by fire and he felt himself jolting to a halt instinctively to avoid running into the flames engulfing everything around him. Dirk was cursing next to him, while Equius was stomping right through the flames to get to where Trickster had been.

It wasn’t there when he reached the spot though, and Dave was having a hard time seeing through the flames and smoke filling up the room. It was an illusion of course and he could breathe perfectly fine and walking through the fire didn’t even make him the slightest bit warmer, but that wasn’t the point.

The deal was it made it hard as fuck to see and the chances of catching him now were slim to none.

The illusion was quickly starting to fade; revealing that both spirits had ran off in the cover of the flames. The three instantly started out of the room, although Dave hesitated when he caught sight of that other spirit turning a corner to somewhere farther in the building.

There was no doubt that Trickster was long gone. Like it said, it wasn’t stupid, by the time they reached the outside they’d have no chance to catch up with it. Fuck, deciding that he didn’t want this whole mission to be a complete waste, he ran after the spirit.

It didn’t take long for him to catch up, the thing not in much better condition than the last time he’d fought it. Really, the only reason it was fairing any better this time was that it had a head start and wasn’t taken completely off guard.

Soon enough he had it backed into the end of some long hallway, the wall behind it partially crumbled away from the old fire and wear and tear since then. The spirit turned around to face him, a clear look of terror on its face as it desperately tried to keep out of the way of his sword.

“Would you cut it out you fucking maniac! Stop attacking me! Jesus fucking shit!” it was yelling, a pretty much endless stream of curses that Dave was pretty much blocking out.

“I SAID FUCKING STOP!” it demanded, turning to fix a pointed glare directly onto him.

Dave felt his muscles lock up at the command, not expecting the ferocity that the so far terrified creature showed. It was just a split second halt in his actions, but it was long enough to allow the spirit to jump towards the large hole in the wall. Forcing himself to move forward he swept his sword after it, watching as it just barely missed the spirit. He was half tempted to jump out of the second story to give chase, just barely managing to hold himself back from doing something unbelievably stupid.

The transparent being had disappeared from his view before he could decide if it would be worth it to run down after it. Dave groaned in frustration, kicking at the wall and nearly falling forward when it crumbled away.

What the fuck happened there? This was the second god damn time it’d managed to get away and he didn’t even have an excuse now. He just let the damn thing go and he had no idea why or how he was going to explain this.

Taking one last kick at the wall, he sighed and started back towards the direction Dirk and Equius had ran off in. He had no doubt that Trickster had managed to get away as well, so all in all this whole mission had ended up being fucking useless because he stopped fucking swinging his sword.

That settled it. This was hells of personal now. He was going to take that spirit out if it was the last thing he did.

Alright, that sounded really god damn lame, but it was true. It wasn’t going to get away next time. He’d make sure of it.

---

He should be dead. Or well technically he was dead but he should have double died and fuck that was going to take some getting used to.

Karkat was shaking and he was sure that as soon as he stopped running the pain from jumping out of a second story building would hit him and he’d just collapse, so he wasn’t going to stop. At least not for a little while longer or when there weren’t any other people around.

Eventually he slowed to a stop, slightly weirded out by the fact that he wasn’t about of breath. He guessed he really didn’t need to breathe anymore after all, which was definitely going to take some adjustment as well before he was comfortable with the whole idea. No extreme pain signaling that he broke both of his legs hit him either, so he supposed that maybe he wasn’t as fucked up from this whole ordeal as he’d thought he’d be.

He could not believe that he still existed though. Holy fuck that hunter had him cornered again and John hadn’t been there to save his ass this time, it honestly didn’t make any sense. He was not about to question it though, because shit as long as he didn’t have to die a second time he didn’t care.

Slowly, he managed to come down from his panic enough to start wondering where he was and what he was supposed to do.

It looked like he was near a junk yard, and he walked over to lean against the chicken wire fence as he sat down. He had no idea where John had run off to, and Jade had left earlier in the morning, so he was pretty much completely alone again.

God fucking damn it.

Karkat just slumped further in on himself, not feeling the emotional wherewithal to really push himself to do anything about this predicament at the moment. He just needed a fucking break from intense panic for five god damn minutes.

He was so fucking tired too. God, he didn’t even know if you could sleep as a ghost. He hadn’t tired it yet.

Karkat wasn’t all that sure how long he stayed in that spot, but it barely seemed like any time had passed before he was looking up and the sun was already halfway down the horizon. He considered maybe starting out to look for John or Jade again, because they were the only ones he knew that would understand even the slightest bit what he was going through right now.

Fuck, he hoped John had managed to get away. He hadn’t considered the possibility that they’d caught him, but he really hadn’t seen what had happened after all of that fire appeared. That settled it, he needed to start looking for them. He didn’t have anyone else and fuck that giving up bullshit.

Pushing himself up off of the ground, he nearly walked straight into someone he’d somehow not managed to noticing walking up and staring at him as he’d been sitting.

“Crap shitting fuck!” he yelled, tripping back to avoid slamming into the dude. Of course, he probably would have just phased right through the guy but he was still having a hard time remember that kind of stuff.

Having moved back a respectable distance away, Karkat was able to actually look the other person over. He was… he looked fucking weird, okay? His hair had probably never seen a brush once in its long life, and there were strange markings on his face. It took a moment to register that it was make up, like a clown would wear. The pants he had on had a circle pattern, adding to the clown get up. Karkat had to crane his head back in order to look him in the face, he was rather tall.

“Uh,” Karkat managed to squeak out. The guy’s lazy eyes slowly focused on him and Jesus fuck was he high or something? God damn he probably lived in this junk yard. He needed to leave like right the fuck now.

“How’s it goin my motherfuckin brother?” the dude asked, and Karkat took a few more steps back from the guy.

“Um, just fine. I need to be leaving,” he muttered out, looking down at the ground as he tried to walk around the creep. He didn’t get four steps away before the guy was back in front of him and jesus fuck he hadn’t seen him move at all.

“What’s all the motherfuckin rush? Ain’t no need to be running around all hurry like, ya hear,” he said, and Karkat hesitantly nodded, looking around to see if there was some way he could make a run for it. At least this guy couldn’t actually kill him since the chances of him being with those hunters from earlier were pretty god damn slim.

“I need to find some of my friends okay?” he tried, trying to back up from him once again. For every step back he made though, the other guy took one forward.

“Well fuck, maybe I can be something of a help for a ghost brother lookin for some bros,” he said, causing Karkat to jolt. Okay, it was kind of obvious he wasn’t normal with the whole transparency thing, but shit, he thought maybe he hadn’t noticed with how out of it he seemed. The fact that he was pretty much perfectly fine with it was rather alarming as well.

“How do you know what I am?” he asked, since seriously, ghosts were not something he was all that aware of when he’d been alive. Of course there were rumors and things, they were a common explanation for a lot of murders (he supposed those were true now, fuck) but he hadn’t believed any of that shit. The fact that this creepy as hell stoner was totally cool with the idea set off a whole fucking color guard worth of red flags.

“Shit, you’re a new motherfucker ain’t you? How do you think my brother? No difference between the two of us now,” he told Karkat, and holy shit there was no way this was happening. How the hell did he managed to stumble on another god damn ghost? Of course, John had been the one to find him first, he supposed, but it still seemed like this was pretty unlikely.

He would have preferred that if he had to run into another spirit, it wasn’t one that was most likely clinically insane. Of course, these things ate people to survive, so the chances of finding a sane one was probably a lot lower than one who’s not.

“Oh, okay, well that makes sense, I guess. Yeah, but I still need to go find my friends so…” he rambled, pretty uncomfortable with being alone with this guy. Could spirits kill other spirits? He really didn’t want to have to find out, actually.

Karkat managed to get a few feet behind the other spirit before he was back in front of him again. A yelp of fear and frustration escaped him as he had to avoid running into him again.

“Would you fucking stop doing that?” he snapped, trying to settle down from the spike of fear he’d felt. The other guy just gave him a lazy smile, not appearing bothered at all by Karkat’s anger. Why the hell did everyone seems so fine with that as well?

“Motherfuck, sorry for the scare my brother. Ain’t trying to make no problems up in here,” he said, a bit of sincerity showing through the almost slurred way he spoke. Karkat nodded, since at least it seemed like he would actually listen to him. A smile started to spread even wider on the other spirit’s face, and immediately Karkat had a bad feeling about whatever idea seemed to have manifested in the spirit’s brain.

“Shit, why don’t I all and make it up to a fresh ghost brother? We can get our motherfuckin eatin on,” he suggested, sounding rather proud of the idea. Karkat was shaking his head and backing away the second he heard the word ‘eatin’ since holy fuck he did not want to go through that again.

“No! No, no, it’s fine, um…” he trailed off, realizing he didn’t know this spirit’s name yet.

“Gamzee,” he offered helpfully, having picked up on his hesitation.

“Gamzee, okay, Gamzee, it’s fine, really, no need to eat for me. I uh, I just ate a little while ago,” he stumbled, trying to stop this before this guy went out and there was suddenly someone near death lying on the ground in front of him. He could see that happening again all too easily and he wasn’t sure how well he’d be able to take that right now.

Gamzee was frowning slightly, looking disappointed in Karkat’s refusal for food, but at least this time he’d let him take a few steps back without following menacingly.

“Is a brother fucking sure about that? There’s got to a way I can all get my helping on,” he asked, and Karkat chewed on his lip as he tried to think of a way into tricking this guy to leave him alone.

“Yeah, there’s a way you can help,” he started, Gamzee perking up slightly at that. God damn, he was like some demented, killer puppy. Karkat couldn’t decide if that was slightly endearing or just made him even more horrifying. There was a possibility that it was both.

“Remember I need to find my friends? You can help me look for them. How about I go look this way, and you look over there?” He suggested, pointing the two in opposite directions. He had no intention of meeting back up with the other spirit once they split ways, instead just hoping he could find John again and ask him about the chances of being killed by another spirit.

“Motherfucking sure thing my brother. Who’s it you’re all searching for so that I can get my looking on?” he asked.

“Uh, his name’s John. Or sometimes Trickster if you’re a sword wielding maniac I guess? He’s a spirit too, blue eyes, buck teeth?” Karkat explained. Gamzee nodded, a look of recognition on his face.

“The motherfuckin prankster brother, alright,” he said, apparently knowing who he was talking about. Well, at least that meant that Karkat could ask John about him once he found him again.

“Okay, well, I’m going to go look over here now, you head that way,” Karkat told him, and the other spirit nodded before flashing out of sight. Jesus fuck this guy was fast.

Without thinking twice he started running off in the direction he’d pointed out earlier. Once he was out of sight he turned several times, just in case that guy tried to find him again. It was only when Karkat felt he was a safe distance away that he slowed down and actually start thinking about how he was going to find John. Should he head back to that building they’d stayed in?

He decided that he would only do that as a last resort, since he didn’t know how long those hunters would stick around or watch the place. The fact that he’d managed to get away twice was definitely a fluke, he did not want to risk a third time.

It was dark as he walked along now, which actually eased the anxiety that had been building up inside of him. He didn’t deal well with large groups of people or being outside all that well to begin with, but with this whole ghost thing it made it even worse. He didn’t want anyone to notice him, so the night and lack of people allowed for him to actually relax slightly as he walked down the street.

He really had no idea where he was going though. He really didn’t go outside much when he was alive, so he barely knew the town he’d grown up in. Basically, if it was more than a mile away from the hospital it was foreign territory to him.

Karkat figured he’d been walking for nearly an hour at this point, and he still didn’t have the slightest idea on where he should head or even how to narrow down his search option. He supposed that abandoned places were the most likely place John or Jade would have headed, but he didn’t actually know any, so that put a damper on that plan. He wasn’t feeling as completely hopeless as he normally did though. He supposed that being able to walk around without becoming exhausted almost as soon as he began helped a bit to lighten his mood.

“Motherfuck my man, you went pretty far out here,” a voice called out from behind him, causing Karkat to jolt as he quickly spun around.

A few feet behind him was the spirit from before, and Karkat found himself cursing under his breath. How the hell did that guy managed to find him? He thought he’d put enough distance between them but apparently not. Gamzee didn’t seem to have any idea that he’d been trying to give him the slip, and Karkat was not about to tell him this. He did not want to risk pissing him off.

“Yeah, I just couldn’t find him anywhere. Did you have any luck?” he asked, fudging the reason for him being so far away a bit. Hell, if Gamzee had managed to find him maybe he’d had better luck with John actually, that would actually bring an upside to all of this. Of course, if he’d found John that didn’t explain why he wasn’t here as well.

“Afraid not my brother,” Gamzee answered, and Karkat sighed. Yeah, okay maybe he’d been too hopeful in thinking he could have that good of luck.

“Alright, that’s fine,” Karkat muttered, turning around and starting forward again. He still didn’t know where he was going, and within seconds Gamzee was walking next to him.

“Where we all up and heading to now?” he asked, and Karkat tried not to groan in frustration. It really didn’t seem like he’d be able to get rid of this guy, at least not tonight. Hell, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Maybe he could help him find a place to hide once day came.

“We’re still looking for John,” he told him, and Gamzee nodded as he followed along. As they walked under the streetlight, Karkat could see several scars across his nose under all of the face paint.

“How long have you been a spirit?” he asked after a long stretch of silence. Every so often they would see someone else walking down the street, and Karkat would carefully lead them out of the way. Gamzee was staring up at the cloudy sky at he answered.

“Motherfuck, time’s all up and been getting away from me. Ain’t sure how long it’s been myself,” he said, and yeah, Karkat wasn’t sure why he expected anything more specific than that. He really didn’t seem like a super observant or organized fellow, and even Jade had said that you tend to lose track of time after a while.

“That’s fine,” Karkat said, stopping to take in their surroundings. It looked like they were starting to head into a neighborhood, which was probably the last place John or Jade would have headed. Making a decision, he turned around and started back the way they’d came.

“Hey, do you know how to get to an old burned out school? That’s the last place I’d seen John before we were chased by hunters, but I don’t remember the way back,” Karkat asked. Gamzee stood still for a moment, seeming to be thinking the question over before finally nodding.

“Shit yeah, I think I can all up and get us there,” he said, and Karkat sighed in relief before motioning for Gamzee to take the lead.

“Well, let’s see if he went back,” he said, and Gamzee nodded as he started back up the street.

Karkat switched between staring at the ground and Gamzee’s back they walked. If those hunters were still around, hopefully they could just hightail it out of there before they were noticed. There would be no way John would still be around if that was the case anyway.

He wasn’t sure how, but he’d managed to make another ally too possibly. Not exactly someone he’d wanted as an ally, but fuck it honestly he could use all of the people he could get to figure out how to cope with all the shit that kept on being thrown at him.

If this strange, possibly insane clown dude wanted to help him out, then who was he to say no?

Chapter Text

When they finally reached the old building, there weren’t any signs of anyone else having been around since the fight with the hunters. Sure, Karkat was relieved that those maniacs weren’t still around to find them, but John also wasn’t here and he officially had no idea where else to look.

He’d managed to search through the entire school before slumping down against a wall in defeat. Gamzee stood a few feet away, not seeming terribly concerned that they couldn’t find the other spirit.

“Well, fuck if I know what to do now. There doesn’t happen to be some super-secret spirit bar or something that he could be at now, kicking his fucking feet up and being completely god damn content with leaving me to rot?” Karkat asked, not all that surprised that Gamzee seemed to take the question seriously. There was definitely something about the dude that made him seem like he wasn’t all there, but Karkat was starting to get used to it. Or at least, it was starting to creep him out a bit less.

“Nah man, ain’t nothing like that that I’d ever heard of,” he answered, and Karkat sighed, slumping his head in defeat. He wasn’t even sure why he wanted to find John again so much. It was probably because he’d been the only one so far to give him any reason to trust him since all of this started going down.

Gamzee hadn’t attempted to murder his ghost yet, which was a start. He hadn’t quite done anything positive yet either, so Karkat was going to reserve his judgment on the creepy as fuck clown for now.

He supposed Jade was also in the ‘hasn’t tried to kill me yet’ camp for now, and while not someone he trusted, was someone he wouldn’t be horrified about finding.

“Maybe he’ll come back in the morning,” Karkat mumbled to himself, wishing he didn’t sound as pathetic as he knew he did. Just fuck those hunters, okay? He just wanted some time to adjust without having to worry about dying once again and without them scaring off the people who might be able to help him do that.

“Sure fuckin thing my brother, you all got to be stayin on that positive shit. We’ll find the motherfuckin prankin bro, I can feel it,” Gamzee reassured him, but Karkat was having a hard as fuck time being as certain as he was. There was always the chance that John could be able to find him again, but he knew he wasn’t that lucky.

If there was one thing he never fucking had in his short, miserable life, it was luck.

“Right, sure,” he answered anyway, not wanting to argue with the guy for now. “Should we just stay here for the rest of the night then? Shit, I don’t want to have to go out looking during the day, maybe we should head out again now? But then where are we going to stay for the day? Fuuuuck,” Karkat rambled, pulling at his hair in frustration. He didn’t know what to do, and he didn’t quite think Gamzee would be able to give him too much insight either.

“Whoa there my man, just all up and chill for a second,” the taller spirit said, taking a few steps towards him. Karkat shook his head as he curled up further in on himself. He needed a goddamn plan. He fucking hated uncertainty and everything was so fucking uncertain right now. He could tell he was on the edge of flipping the fuck out but he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

“No, fuck you. I’m not going to ‘all up and chill’ okay? I need to figure out what to do, what the fuck am I supposed to do?” he asked, hands fisted up painfully in his hair at this point, and he could feel himself shaking now.

He was the most fucking pathetic ghost god damn.

“Hell man, there ain’t no need to worry about that. Can’t you feel the miracles comin on? Motherfuck my brother, shits gonna be fine,” he argued and good god Karkat wanted to fucking punch him in the face for even thinking those things, let alone saying them to him.

He didn’t though; because that would require him moving from his spot and would also probably get him killed.

“Fuck you,” was all he was able to mutter, tying to take deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself down even just the slightest bit. He could feel like he was breathing, but he knew he didn’t actually need to and wasn’t sure if the feeling was even real, and that was just fucking with him in a whole new way.

Gamzee stayed quiet for a while, allowing Karkat to pull himself back together from this latest freak out. Good fucking god, he needed to get a handle on that quick. As much as the situations totally and completely justified it, he could not keep freaking out over every little thing if he expected to last at all.

Well, he didn’t expect to last, but shit he wanted to try.

Slowly, he pushed himself back onto his feet, rubbing at his face as he attempted to move past the last lingering lashes of panic pulling at him.

“Alright, we need a plan. We can’t look for him during the day, there’d be too many people out. There’s still a few more hours until sunrise, I’m going to keep looking until then. I guess I can stay here again once the sun comes up, hopefully those hunters won’t think we’d come back so soon,” he was mostly talking himself through all this, but Gamzee seemed to be listening as intently as he could be. Karkat let out a sigh as he turned to address the other spirit on purpose instead of by happenstance.

“You can come and help me if you want to, and if you need a place to stay for the day I won’t kick you out,” he said, not that he thought he’d even be able to do something like that if he wanted to.

From the bright as fuck smile that slowly spread across the other’s face, it seemed that he hadn’t realized at the end of the day Karkat had no actual say in the matter.

“Motherfuck, a brother might just all and take you up on that offer,” Gamzee said, and Karkat just nodded, starting back down the hallway again. He wanted as much time as he could to look for John before the sun came up, and he’d certainly wasted quite a bit of it right then.

Gamzee was following him, and Karkat was actually starting to feel a bit better now that he had a purpose.

Of course, that feeling went away as soon as he exited the building and found he still had no fucking idea where to look. Instead, he found himself paralyzed in the doorway as he tried to make his brain work out what he should do.

“Uh, are we gonna get our looking on soon or what?” Gamzee asked after a few moments, and Karkat jerked as he snapped out of it, cursing under his breath and starting forward again.

“Fuck, fuck, yeah I’m going, I just don’t know where the hell to look,” he admitted, the helplessness starting to creep back in. He just needed a break here, something to give him some direction. Or John could stop being a complete douche and just show up and save him the trouble already.

“Well motherfuck, if you’re all up and out of ideas, we could go ask the fuckin seer sis,” Gamzee suggested. Karkat frowned as he turned back around towards him, almost afraid to ask what he meant.

“Just who the fuck is that and how can she help us?” he asked, hoping beyond hope that the other spirit would give him a straight fucking answer for once.

“Shit man, the sis is all full of miracles, I’m sure she’ll be able to find a spirit brother,” he said, and Karkat chewed roughly on his lip as he tried to think this over. The chances of him just happening upon John were rather slim, and that’s was pretty much what he was hoping for at this point. He had no idea where he would be and it didn’t seem like Gamzee did either.

Hesitating a bit, he finally let out a sigh before giving in.

“And you know where this person is? We don’t have to go searching aimlessly for them?” he asked, relief flowing through him when Gamzee nodded. Honestly, he wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d suggested getting help from someone who would be just as hard to find as John was being at the moment.

“Alright then, lead the fucking way I guess,” Karkat grumbled, stepping out of the way so that he could walk in front. Gamzee gave him another one of those unsettling lazy smiles as he walked past, and Karkat had to try to convince himself that he was not in fact being led into a trap.

It took almost an hour to reach their destination. Karkat had gotten very good at judging the passage of time without a clock over the years. It happened when you didn’t have anything else to do but count seconds for a lot of the time.

He pushed away the thoughts of how unbelievable boring a majority of his life had been before he could get even more sidetracked. Instead he shifted his focus to where Gamzee had taken them.

It was rather far outside of town, much farther than Karkat had ever been on his own. It was also much more forest than Karkat had ever seen, although that didn’t actually have to be much forest. The closest he could remember getting to ‘nature’ was when they’d take him to some shitty park during his healthier spells.

He fucking hated that shit.

“Well?” Karkat asked, turning towards Gamzee. All he could see was trees in the darkness around him, and certainly not whoever it was he’d been brought all the way out here to meet.

“Well what, my motherfucker?” Gamzee asked back, and Karkat wasn’t able to keep himself from groaning.

“Well, where is this person who’s supposed to help us, because I sure as fuck don’t see anyone,” he clarified. A look of realization seemed to fall over the other spirit’s face, and Karkat was seriously considering the idea that he’d forgotten what they were doing halfway here.

Before he was able to ask if that was indeed the case here, Gamzee turned to look up in the tree in front of the two, starting to call out to someone.

“Yo, my blasphemous motherfucker, could you all up and help a fuckin brother out?” he asked up the tree.

“Oh my god, Gamzee, what do you want now?” a voice called back, high pitch and grating and sounding very much done with the tall spirit already, not that Karkat blamed her from what he knew of the guy. Before either of them could answer the person who’d been in the tree was standing in front of them, and Jesus fuck Karkat had to figure out how they all did that teleporting shit because it was starting to piss him off.

Not that he was able to think about that much once he managed to process what it was she looked like in the darkness.

She was shorter than him, just slightly, with black hair as well. Everything about her was sharp, all bones and angles and lines. None of that was what drew his attention however. It turned out to be rather difficult to process any of that when all that was running through his head was ‘holy fucking shit her eyes are bleeding!’

“How many times do I have to tell you- Ohhh, who is this?” she had started to berate Gamzee, quickly getting distracted once she noticed Karkat frozen in shock as he stared at her. Fuck, could she even see him with her eyes like that? She’d noticed he was there, so the answer was more likely than not yes, but fuck her eyes looked so bad. It was impossible to see her iris or pupil or anything past the blood, and it leaked down her face in what looked like rivulets of tears.

“I, uh,” he stumbled, realizing that he probably sounded really fucking intelligent right about now.

“A new motherfucker could use some help finding our John brother,” Gamzee explained for him, this girl raising an eyebrow in curiosity.

“Could he now? Tell me Mr. New Guy, why exactly should I help you out?” she asked, turning her attention completely towards him and okay she definitely could tell where he is. Karkat remembered the way that John could change his appearance and the illusion of fire he’d created and decided that the whole bleeding eyes deal was probably just an intimidation thing.

It fucking worked, but he wasn’t about to let her know that.

“Look, Gamzee just said that you could find John, he was helping me but we got separated by hunters and I don’t even know if he managed to escape. If you can’t help that’s fine but I’d have to go and start looking for him again,” he explained. A large smile was splitting her face and good god why were her teeth so sharp?

“Oh, I can help you find him, relax. I just want to know why. Like, why that dork?” she asked, and Karkat shrugged. He wasn’t too sure himself, but fuck it was what he set himself to and so he was going to fucking do it damn it.

“I already told you, he was helping me. I’m not exactly used to being a god damned ghost yet alright? I just want to make sure he’s not fucking dead or something. Again, I guess,” he said, muttering the last part to himself. The girl rolled her eyes and Jesus fuck that was terrifying.

“He’s fine, it’d take more than a couple of dumb hunters to kill him like that, especially if someone like you managed to escape,” she told him. Karkat wanted to be offended, but he knew she was right. Plus, shit, he was kind of relieved to hear that he hadn’t been killed while Karkat had been running away like a fucking coward.

“Alright well, do you know where he is right now? And also could you tell me how the fuck to get there,” he asked. The girl huffed and crossed her arms, her mouth tuning into a frown.

“I don’t see why I should be offering my services for free. I think I’ve already been quite generous by telling you that he’s alright. Let me know, what can you do to make this worth something for me Mr. Newby?” she asked, and Karkat found he didn’t have any idea how to even begin answering that.

“I don’t fucking know, what do you want?” he asked back after a moment, figuring it’d be easier to just give her something she wanted than trying to think of something that’d impress or amuse her.

The girl had a mock look of thought on her face, making a big show of trying to decide what she wanted. Karkat suddenly realized that she could very well ask him to get her something to eat and felt his stomach drop from the possibility. If that was the case then he’d just have to go and look for John himself because he was sure as fuck not killing for someone else. He wasn't even sure if he was able to think about killing for himself at this point.

“Let’s see, I waaaant… information,” she said after a moment, and Karkat breathed a sigh of relief, which quickly turned into a frown of confusion, because that was so not vague as all fuck.

“What kind of information?” he asked; because he seriously did not have any what it was she’d want to know from him. He’d been in a constant state of confusion since he died and the idea that someone wanted answers from him just seemed absurd.

“What kind do you got? I don’t know anything about you or how you happened on this lug or your apparent run in with some hunters,” she elaborated.

“A couple of hunters tracked us down and I managed to run away when John made some fire appear out of nowhere. I’m not fucking sure how, because that maniac was right there with his sword but whatever. Gamzee just found me near a fucking junkyard. I’ve been a spirit for maybe two weeks at most, there’s not really much else I can tell you,” he told her, hoping that would be enough to satisfy the spirit, although he doubted it.

“Name?” She asked, confusing Karkat for a moment.

“What?” he asked back, brain still not working quite as well as it should be. She sighed and rolled her eyes again, but she was still smiling so he wasn’t quite sure how to process that.

“Your name, new kid,” she clarified, and he felt pretty dumb at that moment.

“Karkat Vantas.”

“Well Karkat, I’m sure there’s more than that. What hunters were after you?” she continued, and he shrugged because it wasn’t like he knew his name or anything.

“Some sword wielding maniac in these dumb shades,” he told her.

“There’s like three of those, which one?” she asked again, and Karkat could only stare at her in shock because seriously? There was no fucking way there was more than one.

He did remember seeing that one of the other two hunters who’d attacked them in the school had sunglasses and a sword as well so there was the chance that she was telling the truth. He had no idea how else to describe the dude though, seeing as he’d spent more time running away in terror than examining his appearance.

“I don’t fucking know, he looked like a douche and was trying to kill me, I wasn’t really paying that much attention,” he told her.

“Were his shades triangles?” she asked, causing Karkat to simply stare at her for a moment as he tried to remember what shape the dumb glasses he’d been wearing had been.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said after a few seconds, and she nodded as if that told her everything she needed to know. Fuck, maybe it did, he had no god damn idea what was going on at this point, so glasses shapes might have been the answer for everything.

“Oh okay, that one. Well, Mr. New-Kat, I’d help you find John but I don’t think you want to go out looking for him during the day, am I right?” she asked, and it was only then that Karkat noticed he could see around him much better than before, light starting to leak over the horizon. He cursed under his breath before nodding.

“Yeah no, I’d like to avoid that shit for now,” he told her.

“I suppose I have no choice but to be incredibly generous and let you stay here for the day, don’t I?” she said, and the grin she was giving him made the spirit uneasy. There was something about her that made him think she was just as out of it as Gamzee was, only in a way that was trickier to spot.

“Where even is here, you came out of that fucking tree. Also I don’t even know your name, why would you help me out?” he asked, because it was starting to unnerve him just how fucking helpful ghosts seemed to be. There had to be a catch here, and he didn’t want to find out when it was too late.

“Terezi Pyrope, at your service!” she announce in a grandiose manner, taking a deep bow and Karkat could see a few drops of blood from her eyes splatter on the ground due to the movement. “And don’t worry about the why, Karkat, just know that I am a great person who likes doing nice things for nice people,” she reassured him, although it just made him about a thousand times more suspicious.

“Do I even have a choice here?” Karkat asked, and Terezi gleefully shook her head. “Yeah, I didn’t think so,” he grumbled to himself, deciding to just go along without a fight for now. He was already fucking dead, what’s the worst that could happen?

Dying again, but he was just so tired at the point he didn’t give a single flying shit anymore.

“Oh, and Gamzee?” Terezi started, turning back towards the other spirit. Karkat had nearly forgotten he was there for a moment, with how quiet he’d been through this whole ordeal. He seemed to jolt back into awareness, eyes focusing on the girl.

“Yeah, motherfucker?” he asked. Terezi’s smile turned into a frown as she continued.

“What are you still doing here?” she snapped, surprising Karkat. All of a sudden he found himself unsure if he wanted Gamzee to actually leave. He didn’t trust the guy, but fuck he hadn’t done anything to him yet and if this girl wanted him alone for a reason he did not want to find out what that reason was.

Gamzee did not seem affected by her temper, just giving a small shrugging, a lazy smile never leaving his face.

“Well shit, I just thought I’d stay and help out the Karbro here,” he said, not sounding like he got the hint to leave, with Karkat found he was thankful for.

“Urg, fine, you can stay too,” she conceded quicker than Karkat had expected her to. “If that’s all settled, then how about we head up,” she said, turning back to Karkat.

“Up where? You mean you actually want me to climb up that dumb as fuck tree?” he asked, Terezi glaring at him afterwards.

“Shut up, my tree is great. Now get to climbing,” she ordered him, and reluctantly Karkat started towards the tree. Before he could ask either of the other spirits why exactly they were doing this, the two seemed to have disappeared in a flash, apparently up somewhere in the branches above him now.

Wow, fuck them then. Gripping a few low branches tightly, Karkat slowly pulled himself up the tree, practically hugging the thing as he moved farther up. He’d never done something like this before and he was definitely going to fall and make a complete fool of himself.

Much to his surprise, he managed to get high enough in the branches that he saw where the other two must be, a small treehouse close to him. He cautiously made his way over to the decrepit thing, only relaxing once he was inside and there was some sort of floor beneath his feet.

“Took you long enough,” Terezi teased, and he sneered at her as he walked over to sit in the corner closest to him.

“Fuck you, it’s not like I’ve climbed many trees before,” he snapped, and Terezi shook her head sadly.

“What a disappointing existence,” she commented. Karkat just rolled his eyes and he rested his head on his knees. He could see Gamzee was sitting down as well, too tall to stand without hitting his head on the brittle ceiling.

Fuck, he was so god damn tired. He couldn’t just go to sleep around these people. He didn’t even know if he was physically capable of going to sleep at all, but it sure felt like he could. His eyes were drooping and it was getting increasingly harder to keep them open. When he said he didn’t know if you could sleep as a ghost, he was serious, and if you could then the fact that he hadn’t in the past two weeks probably wasn’t a very good thing.

“You need to rest, Crabbykat,” Terezi told him, and he shook his head in defiance despite the fact that his body was continuing to betray him by shutting itself down. His body wasn’t even real anymore fuck this shit.

“I’m perfectly fucking fine, I’ll rest when I fucking want to and not a moment sooner,” he declared in a slurred voice, knowing at this point it was all talk. He was sure that Terezi had said something else to him, and he thought he might have heard Gamzee make a comment as well, but he was too far gone by that point.

He didn’t register that he’d been asleep until he woke up hours later. The sun was starting to set and when he looked around he saw that Gamzee was also asleep on the other side of the small treehouse.

Terezi wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and Karkat sighed. He just hoped she’d get back soon, because he still needed her to tell him where John was.

He just needed to wait for now. At the very least, it gave him some time to rest. Lord knows he needed it.

---

Dave ended up finding Dirk and Equius outside of the burned building, not surprised when they told him Trickster had managed to get away.

He explained how he’d gone after the other spirit, but it had managed to give him the slip before he could destroy it. He could tell from the slightest of looks that Dirk had given him that he knew that wasn’t the whole story. He wasn’t about to go on explaining how he’d just managed to fuck up again, because that was embarrassing and frankly did not need to be talked about.

The walk back to the base was just as quiet as when they left, and Dave was sure that it was even more awkward. Once they reached base the three quickly explained to the others that the mission had been a failure. Both Dirk and Equius headed out to fill out their own reports almost as soon as they gone back, while Dave collapsed on the couch. Eridan must have moved when they’d been gone, which was lucky for him because Dave did not want to have to settle for a chair for his dramatic slump of defeat.

After an appropriate amount of time spent moping around, Dave pushed himself to go fill out the report.

When it got to the part where he split off from the other two, he found himself hesitating to write down what had happened. The moment right before he hesitated was almost a blur. He remembered the spirit had been yelling but fuck if he could remember what, and then it told him to stop so he did.

It didn’t make any fucking sense, and it sure as fuck wasn’t going to happen again.

Making a decision, he wrote down what he’d told Dirk and Equius, although in a bit more detail. He’d thought he caught sight of the other spirit, and had run after the thing before losing it when it went through a wall. The fine print didn’t matter. That spirit was weak as hell and as soon as he could get his fucking hands on it the thing was done for.

Dave put his report on top of the pile of Dirk’s and Equius’ before heading back to the main room. He wanted his own office space, it wasn’t fair. Not everyone had one, the building wasn’t big enough, and a few people shared unofficially.

Still though, you’d think Bro or someone could pull some strings and get him his own awesome set up. Rose had one, and she’d only been a part of this whole shindig for a little longer than he had.

Dave considered going home for a moment, since there wasn’t much else for him to do now. Today’s whole focus had been on trying to take out Trickster, and that had failed spectacularly. Before he could fully commit to leaving Aradia walked into the room, spotting him and heading over with a smile.

“Hello Dave, I heard that Trickster had managed to escape once again,” she said, and Dave just barely nodded, not in a mood to talk about it. Aradia could apparently tell as such, as she crossed his arms while she gave him a look.

“You know, spirits get away all the time, don’t take it out on yourself,” she tried to comfort him. Dave quickly shook his head, pushing himself up from where he’d been slouching back. He did not want anyone thinking he was moping about this. Even if he was kind of was moping that didn’t mean anyone had to notice it.

“No, no yeah I get that. Striders don’t take shit out on themselves don’t you worry about that mess. It’s not surprising Trickster managed to slip away, that’s his whole thing, was just frustrated about that new spirit. The things weak as shit it should have been dead yesterday,” he tried to explain. Aradia nodded in understanding.

“I thought that was what was bothering you. If you want, you can come and I’ll try to track it down again, it might not have gone far,” she offered and Dave hesitated. Going with her would mean admitting she was right about it bothering him, but on the other hand, it was bothering him, and Aradia was pretty cool about most things when it came down to it. She was one of the few people he worked with that he knew wouldn’t get on his case about something like this.

“Sure, why the fuck not?” he decided at last, watching as a smile briefly lit up the girl’s face before she started back towards her office, Dave following.

Once they entered the room, Dave couldn’t help but feel the same strange mix of creeped out and intrigued by her room. There wasn’t much that blatantly screamed ‘this is creepy’ which just made it even more impressive.

Shelves full of strange trinkets lined the walls, most of which had to do something with their spirit-demon hunting business. Some of it didn’t and was just things the girl thought was cool or interesting in some way.

Dave pulled a spare chair over to her desk, sitting down and watching as she started working with the large glass sphere set up in the center. It was a fucking crystal ball, he wasn’t going to try to make it seem more dignified than it was.

Aradia hummed to herself as she worked away, but Dave didn’t understand all that much about the magical side of their business. Just give him a sword that’ll let him cut those things and he was good. He laid his head down on the desk as he waited; messing around with a weird blue die she’d had lying around.

Aradia swatted his head before snatching the die away from him and putting it out of sight in a drawer.

“Please do not mess with that, I’m not entirely sure what it does yet,” she told him, and Dave shrugged, sitting back up.

“Not like I can anymore, you snapped it right out of my hand girl, rude,” he joked, and Aradia just rolled her eyes as she turned her attention back to her crystal ball.

After a few minutes Dave was starting to get fidgety again, and he got up to start looking over her shelves. He was careful not to touch anything this time and piss her off again.

It was nearly an hour later when Aradia huffed in frustration.

“It’s very difficult to get a read on him. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I think I almost have him,” she said, and Dave just nodded. He’d abandoned his ‘no touching’ rule a while ago and was examining some weird skull he’d found. It didn't seem to bother her this time, so he figured he was good. That was one of the best things about Aradia, she always had a crap load of cool as fuck dead things.

“Aha! Oh…” Aradia shouted about five minutes later, definitely not startling Dave in the slightest, nearly causing him to drop the bottle of dead bugs he’d swapped for the skull a little while ago.

“You found him?” he asked, walking over to her and peering at the ball. He couldn’t make out anything for himself, a strange blend of colors and some sort of grid overlaying it. Swirls of purple were lashing around, with a tiny hint of red peeking out near the center of the oracle.

“Yes, and you will not be going to take him out tonight,” she told him with absolute certainty. Dave felt his face twitch into a frown despite himself. He’d just spent an hour waiting around to go after this thing, and now she was telling him he couldn’t?

“Why not? Is he back with Trickster again or something? Fuck, why is that asshole protecting him like that,” he grumbled, but to his surprise Aradia shook her head.

“No, it’s not the Trickster this time,” she said, and Dave raised an eyebrow as he saw her lean closer to the crystal, squinting her eyes as if she didn’t quite believe whatever it was she saw.

“Oh, then what’s the problem?” he asked.

“He’s with the Ringmaster.”

“Oh hells no, fuck that shit,” Dave blurted out before he could even process what he was saying, a shiver running up his spine. He took a step away from the crystal ball as if worried that the spirit would find some way to come through it and murder them all.

It was just… fuck that guy.

“That’s what I thought,” Aradia said, causing Dave to frown. It wasn’t that he was scared of the thing, it was just, okay fuck it that monster was goddamn terrifying. It wasn’t just him though, it was a fucking law of the universe that the Ringmaster was terrible in every way imaginable.

“What the hell is it doing with that thing? Jesus fuck was Trickster not a good enough bodyguard for this guy?” Dave asked, and Aradia simply shrugged, seeming to have gotten over her initial shock.

“I’m not entirely sure, but I suppose that is a possibility. I do know why he was so difficult to pinpoint now, Ringmaster’s powerful aura was drowning out his own,” she explained, and yeah that at least made sense to him. Auras were like, kindergarten magic stuff, he could deal with that.

“Well, uh,” Dave muttered, not entirely sure what to do at this point, because Aradia was right. There was just no fucking way any of them were going to risk the fucking Ringmaster for some feeble new spirit.

“You should probably get home, you have off tomorrow, don’t you?” Aradia suggested for him, and Dave nodded.

“Yeah, about fucking time too. I swear because its family they feel like they can work you right to the brink of death. I’m struggling here Aradia, they’re working me to the bone, tell my family they suck,” he rambled, making a dramatic play of dying at the end. The girl rolled her eyes, but she was smiling and definitely trying not to laugh, Dave could totally tell.

“Don’t worry Dave, I won’t let such loving last words go in vain,” she reassured, and Dave nodded very seriously.

“I knew I could count on you Aradia, you are a true friend. But yeah I’m gonna head out, thanks for trying though,” he said, and the girl nodded.

“Not a problem, go get some rest,” she told him, waving as he left her office.

The walk home was uneventful, the same for the rest of the night. He heard Rose and Roxy come home about an hour later, but didn’t leave his room to go talk to them. Instead, he tried to think about what he was going to do tomorrow. Despite his big show to Aradia, he didn’t mind working all of the time. Fuck, he came from a family of easily obsessed workaholics, there was no way he was going to be able to escape that gene.

He didn’t manage to make any plans that night, and instead decided that he’d just do whatever it was he felt like. Honestly, it was pretty inevitable that'd be staying in his room and drawing some shitty comics, maybe messing with his blog a bit.

That was exactly what he ended up doing the next day, until he heard a knock on his door at around four o’clock.

“Hey Davey, can you go to the store and pick mommy up a few things?” Mom’s slurred voice came calling from outside his door. Dave sighed as he answered.

“Can’t Dirk do it?” he tried, already knowing what her answer would be.

“He’s at work sweetie,” and Dave pushed himself out of his chair.

“Yeah, yeah sure, just give me a minute,” he said, pulling his shoes and a hoodie on before heading out of his room. He also made sure to conceal one of his smaller swords on him, just in case. God, living like this had made them all fucking paranoid.

Mom was standing in the hallway when he opened the door, a bright smile on her face and a list written in barely legible handwriting.

“Thank you so much dearie, I made you a list and everything,” she explained, handing him the crinkled paper. Dave had to squint as he tried to read it over, but he was pretty sure he could understand most of it. He was also pretty sure the things he couldn’t understand were different alcohol names, which he wouldn’t have been able to buy anyway. He wasn’t going to point out this fact, however.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be right back,” he told her, attempting and failing to get away before she engulfed him in a hug.

“Thanks again Davey, you’re the best,” she told him before letting go.

“Yeah, I’ll let your other children know you said that,” he joked before heading down the stairs and out of the house. It didn’t take him long to get down to the store and pick up the actual food items they needed, which didn’t turn out to be that much. It was more likely that she’d wanted the four different types of vodka she’d put on the list, but alas dear mother would have to be disappointed until Dave either became of age or snagged a fake ID.

He was almost halfway home when someone crashed into him from behind, falling to the ground. Dave managed not to drop any of the bags, turning back to see if the person was alright.

“Jeeze, what are you, blind?” they asked, and Dave was about to argue that the girl had ran straight into him when he noticed her groping around for a cane just a bit out of reach. That combined with the smile on her face allowed him to realize the now obvious joke. Shifting the groceries, he reached down and picked the cane up, poking her hand with it instead of just holding it out in front of the girl. He'd done that for a split second before realizing that he'd be waiting a while for her to notice.

An even larger smile spread across her face when she grabbed the cane, pushing herself up to her feet afterwards.

“You okay?” he asked, not wanting to just up and leave without making sure. The girl gave him a thoughtful look, or at least, she gave his general direction a thoughtful look, she was a little bit off from his face. Her teal eyes were glazed over with a white sheen, and she drummed her came on the sidewalk.

“Hm, I’m not sure, but despite your obvious blunders, you sound like a pretty cool kid, so maybe you could help me out,” she said, and Dave couldn’t help but smirk slightly.

“Well first of all, didn’t anyone ever teach you that flattery will get you everywhere?” he asked, and the girl was laughing again, a bright smile back splitting her face.

“Flattery? Why, I have no idea what you are talking about Mr. Coolkid, I am being as sincere as one can be,” she joked, and Dave decided he liked this chick. He didn’t talk to that many people outside of his work, and the ones he worked with were all psychos.

He knew the fact that she was obviously buttering him up helped. He had an ego, he’ll admit it, and anyone willing to indulge that, even jokingly, was good in his book.

“So, what is it that you need help with?” he asked, and the smile on her face dropped slightly.

“My guide dog’s a dumb-butt and got himself stuck in something, a fence I think? You don’t suppose a coolkid like yourself could take a look and try to get him out for me?” she asked, and Dave nodded before realizing that she wouldn’t be able to actually see that.

“Yeah, sure thing,” he said, shifting the groceries that were starting to get heavy in his hands. “Lead the way,” he added, and the girl nodded, still not quite meeting his eyes before turning around and starting down the street, tapping her way forward with her cane. Dave found himself slipping into an easy conversation with the girl that mostly consisted of jokes and old nineties cartoon references. So obviously the best conversation.

After walking for about ten minutes or so she led him behind a shopping center, towards a fenced off area between two buildings. Dave frowned as he looked around the small space for the dog.

“He’s not here, he must have managed to get loose while you were gone. Guide dogs are like super smart though, right? He probably headed back to your house,” he tried to reassure the girl. Before he was able to turn back towards her and make sure she wasn’t too upset by the news, he felt something breathing down his neck.

“Yeah, they’re pretty smart all right, but it seems like cool kids are lacking in that department,” she said, her laugh cackling in his ear.

Dave pulled away from her in an instant, dropping the groceries still in his hands and drawing the small sword from where he had it hidden away. Before he could focus on the girl she rounded on him again, knocking the sword from his hand and pinning him hard against the fence.

Oh fuck. Oh fucking hell he was so dead. The spirit was laughing above him, sharp nails ripping through his jacket and tearing at his skin. Her eyes had changed from that glazed over teal to coated in red blood that dripped down her face, and the smile that had been sort of endearing before was now downright horrifying, filled with way too many needle sharp teeth.

“Aw, what’s the matter coolkid, not so talkative anymore?” she mocked, and Dave attempted to kick out at her, only for the spirit to not flinch at all from the attack. Instead, she just dug her nails deeper into his flesh and laughed harder at his struggle.

“Redglare fuck! Let me go!” he yelled, thrashing around even more, knowing that it was hopeless but not wanting to admit it.

Redglare was old. Redglare was really fucking old and really fucking strong. Trickster couldn’t go up against Redglare one on one and hope to survive, so he was so, so fucked.

“Will you relax? I just want to ask you a question. I mean, I was planning on killing you afterwards, but I don’t know anymore, I kind of like you,” she taunted.

“Fuck you!” he yelled, realizing how quickly he was losing his cool and berating himself for falling for this fucking trap. No one would even mourn, they would just look at what happen and say to themselves ‘yep, he certainly deserved that one, the idiot.’

“Why didn’t you kill him? I know you could have,” she asked, and Dave found himself struggling less as he tried to figure out what the ever-loving fuck she was talking about.

“Why didn’t I kill who? Get the fuck off me,” he asked, starting to feel the panic set in. The fence was digging painfully into his back, and he was starting to lose feeling in his arms. There’d been times before, real fucking close calls, but never like this. It was never all alone and with no options left against someone so impossibly powerful and just waiting for it to happen already.

“You know who, our little new guy. He’s weak, you totally could have killed him,” she clarified, and Dave’s stomached dropped when he realized what she was talking about. This was about that spirit? He was going to fucking die because of that split second hesitation? Fuck this, fuck everything about this.

“I don’t know! I don’t fucking know, okay? I hesitated and he got away, are you happy now?!” he yelled, just wishing she’d get it over with already. Fuck, if he was going to die he at least wanted it to be quick. Actually, he would have liked it to be in a blaze of glory, but he obviously wasn’t getting that so he’d settle for quick and painless.

“Hmm, yeah, okay, I’ll take it,” she said after a moment. The already vicelike grip on his arms tightened even more, and Dave squeezed his eyes shut, sure she was about it either rip them off his body or mutilate him in some other way. Then it stopped, and he could have sworn that he must have died, because there wasn’t anybody tearing into his arms or pressing him against the fence. Ever so slowly, he began to realize that he wasn't dead, and now alone in the small back parking lot.

Without a second thought he started running out of there at top speed, leaving behind his shitty sword and the groceries spewed across the asphalt. He didn’t stop until he was back in his house, locking the door behind him before slumping to the ground.

His breath was coming in shaky gasps and his arms were wrapped around his waist as he tried and failed to get himself to stop fucking shaking. He could feel the blood oozing out of the deep wounds the spirit had torn into his arms, pooling around him, but he couldn’t compose himself enough to get up and treat them. All he could think of was how it reminded him of the blood that had been seeping out of Redglare’s eyes and how she should have killed him, why didn’t she kill him?

“Davie, did you get what I asked- oh dear,” he could hear Mom coming into the room. Register the way her voice shifted from a cheerful tipsy housewife to focused concern, but he couldn’t calm his breathing down enough to actually respond to any of it.

She was at his side in a heartbeat, gentle hand on his back as she tried to talk him down from the panic and figure out what happened.

“Dave? Dave dear look at me. You’re okay, you’re alright sweetie, just breathe. Come on now, breathe like mommy, it’s okay,” she was saying and fuck he hated that it actually worked a bit, because she was treating him like he was six years old again. But despite that, his breathing was becoming slightly less shaky, if still fast.

“See my sweet baby boy, it’s alright, you’re safe, it’s okay. Now come on, come with mommy, let’s go clean you up okay?” she said, and Dave nodded, allowing her to help him to his feet and lead him to the kitchen. He was so fucking thankful no one else was home to see the whole overly doting mother display.

He let her sit him down on a stool by the sink and carefully peel off his ruined hoodie, trying not to aggravate his injuries too much.

“Can you tell me what happened dear?” she asked, rinsing a rag in cold water and applying it gently to the gashes in one of his arms. Dave took a deep breath as he tried to pull himself back together to find his words.

“Redglare,” was all he was able to get out, a small jolt of pain running through him when the woman flinched at his answer, having been in the middle of applying another washrag to his other arm.

“Oh my… sweetie, I’m so glad you managed to get away,” she said, and Dave just shrugged, ignoring the pain it caused in his arms and the fact that it probably messed up the cleaning job his mother was trying to do.

“She just let me go. I don’t get it, she had me right there. She could have done it, I don’t get it,” he mumbled, trying not to cringe when he saw her get out a needle. Yeah, there wasn’t a surprise that he’d have to get stitches, but he didn’t have to like it.

“I’m not sure either dear, but that doesn’t matter anymore alright? All that matters is that you’re safe now,” she told him, but he could tell that she was just as confused as he was.

Because it didn’t make sense. Spirits didn’t fucking let people live, especially not when it would have been so easy, and they were so close. And they sure as fuck didn’t let hunters live, no matter how comfortable they were in the idea that they could beat them if they ever had to fight.

His mind found itself replaying that question Redglare had asked him before disappearing over and over again as he attempted to stay still while mom stitched up his arm.

Why didn’t you kill him? I know you could have.

He still had no idea, and now he wanted to ask her the same thing.

Chapter Text

Dirk once again managed to firmly secure his spot as number two douchebag by coming home early for what was probably the first time in his entire life.

Number one douchebag was Bro. No one would ever be able to knock him from that esteemed title. He was simply the best there is.

Mom had finished stitching up both arms and was wrapping them in bandages to help protect them from popping or infections. Dave didn’t bother saying anything to the older boy who stopped confused in the kitchen doorway.

“What happened to him?” he asked after a moment, mom moving onto his other arm as she answered.

“Just a little scuffle with a spirit Dirk dear,” the woman explained, and Dave scoffed at her answer. No more time to be in the whole scared little kid act, like fuck he was gonna do that with Dirk in the room. He’d been in shock yeah but he was over that now.

“A little scuffle? Nothing with Redglare can count as a little scuffle,” he said, taking note of the genuine surprise that seemed to run through the other boy at the mention of the spirit.

“What the fuck were you doing with Redglare?” Dirk asked, sounding kind of pissed, which yeah Dave could understand. Redglare was not something to take lightly, was on the scale of Spiderbitch or the Ringmaster when you got down to it, which was just bad news all around. The fact that he was even alive right now was still boggling his mind quite a bit.

“Guess I have a thing for blind chicks, no wonder I liked the Lilly route so much,” he joked, making a reference to that one dating game Dirk had shown him a couple months ago. He couldn’t help but take a bit of pride in the absolute incredulous expression on Dirk’s face. Better to just make fun of what happened or else he would start thinking about how serious it had been and he couldn’t be going down that path again.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Dirk grumbled after a moment. “How the hell did you manage to escape?” he asked, and Dave tried not to flinch at the question. Mom finished up on his last arm and started moving to put the left over supplies away. She was doing it suspiciously slowly, as if wanting an excuse to stay in the room and listen in on the two.

“She just let me go dude, I’m not gonna question it,” he answered, Dirk’s usual impassive expression twitching into a frown.

“What? Was there someone coming? Where even were you in the first place? How the fuck did you run into Redglare? Fuck it you’re writing this shit down. I’m printing out a mission form,” Dirk started rambling off, leaving the kitchen doorway and coming back less than a minute later with said mission form. Dave wasn’t even sure how he’d managed to get the printer to work that fast. Although it was possible that Dirk had a stack of them lying around for an occasion just like this.

“Dude, it’s not that big a deal,” Dave tried to argue, taking the paper from him despite his own protests. He attempted to ignore the shooting pain that ran though his arm when he moved it.

“You could have been fucking killed you asshat. Do you have any idea what just happened to you?” Dirk shot back, and okay this was starting to get weird. Mom was always coddling and shit (especially to him, fuck being the youngest Rose only beat him by a couple minutes it doesn’t mean anything) but Dirk being all worried and pissed off was not fucking normal behavior.

“I’m pretty sure I know what happened better than you do, I was kind of there, ya know?” he argued, starting to get irritated with how Dirk was acting. Dave already had a chance to panic about this and he didn’t need everyone else doing it too.

“You clearly don’t get just how bad it could have been if you’re making dumb jokes about it. Do you know how fucking lucky you are that the only things hurt were your arms? I'm surprised she didn't just tear them off, and even still you would have gotten off easy,” he snapped. Dave rolled his eyes, ignoring their mother’s attempt at telling them to stop fighting.

“Of fucking course I know what could have happened! But none of that shit went down so just drop it and let me fill out the damn paperwork,” he said, turning and trying to play it off like he hadn’t flinched when he attempted to start writing. Fuck his arms hurt, but he was not about to let Dirk see that after all this.

“I just don’t understand,” the older boy started mumbling under his breath, “how you could literally end up fucking flirting with death,” he finished. Dave put the pen down, pausing in his writing and turned back towards him.

“Who the hell said I was flirting?”

You did, less than five minutes ago,” Dirk argued, and Dave silently cursed himself because yeah he did kind of say something along those lines, didn’t he?

“That was a god damn joke dude,” he tried to defend himself, but he could tell the other boy was rolling his eyes even behind the shades.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said, not sounding like he believed Dave in the slightest.

“Dude you do not have room to talk. I’m not the one who’s made out with one of these monsters before,” he snapped, Dirk just sticking up a very particular finger at him before flashing out of the room without another word.

Mom sighed as she put away the last of the supplies before turning back towards him.

“Dave, that was an undercover mission Dirk had been on,” she defended the other boy, before pausing a second and adding in a hushed voice. “Did he really make out with that spirit?” she asked, and okay Dave was having a hard time not laughing at that.

“Yeah, but it was Casanova so I guess you can’t blame the dude,” he conceded, not that Dirk was even there to hear it. Mom giggled, having finished putting the last of the supplies away and handing Dave some pain killers before excusing herself.

He turned back towards the counter to finish writing up that report he'd started. It was irritating in more than just the way pain continued to shoot up his arm. He’d been completely duped, and there was no way he could spin it otherwise. He wouldn’t be able to go on any missions for a while now either, which put both him and Eridan out of the hunt for the time being.

Dave found himself halting in his writing once again when he remembered the question she’d asked him. That one thing raised so many other questions and red flags he didn’t even know where to start.

One major one was how the fuck did she even know about that? How did she even know that new spirit existed? First Trickster, then the Ringmaster now apparently fucking Redglare, what the hell was with this thing and attracting some of the most deadly and unstable spirits around? Why couldn’t he just be chilling with the Trainer or something? Or hell even Vampire wouldn’t have been too bad, but no, he had to go for straight up crazy.

The thing really holding him up on writing what she’d said wasn’t that though. It was the little fact that he’d already told them he hadn’t gotten a chance to kill that spirit this time. The others might start getting suspicious if he started contradicting himself. But if he just wrote that she left with absolutely no reasoning for the attack in the first place, it would make even less sense.

Eventually, he went with writing down what Redglare had said, planning on just telling anyone that he had no idea what she meant if they asked. It wasn’t a complete lie, after all. He had no idea why she wanted to know or how or anything like that.

He’d just managed to finish up the paper when he heard the front door opening once again. He mentally cursed the fact that he’d been dumb enough to stay out here instead of running up to his room the first chance he got and writing the report there.

He tried to figure out if there was some way he could get up to his room unnoticed as he heard both Roxy and Rose’s voices coming towards the kitchen. Realizing it was a lost cause, he braced himself for the questions and walked over to the fridge to get something to drink.

It was only then that he remembered he’d left those groceries where he’d been attacked. It wasn’t much so they still had enough to last them till tomorrow when someone else could run out again. It had just completely slipped his mind due to everything that'd happened.

“How was your day off?” Rose asked when they spotted him, not having noticed the bandages quite yet.

“I almost got killed,” he answered, realizing that was the second time he’d said that when he should have been perfectly fine.

“Whoa, what happened to your arms?” Roxy asked, now able to clearly see them since Dave had shut the fridge door.

“Redglare,” he said with as much calmness to his voice as he could manage, hoping maybe if he didn’t make a big deal out of it no one else would. Of course, that had backfired with Dirk, and from the near identical looks of shock on the girls’ faces, he had a feeling it would here too.

“Dave,” Rose started in a stern voice, and he put his hands up, nearly dropping the juice bottle he’d grabbed.

“Look, I know, Dirk already chewed me out about it alright? I filled out a report and everything, it’s right over there. Everything is completely fine and under control,” he tried to stop her before she could start lecturing him. Rose and Dirk were actually really fucking similar, and that was never more apparent than when they were in their angry-concerned mood.

The younger of the two girl’s sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose before reluctantly nodding.

“Alright, fine, let me see it,” she said, not bothering to get his permission before walking over and starting to read the report. Dave attempted to escape to his room while she was distracted only to be cut off by Roxy.

“So, how’d you manage to escape the evil spirit's clutches? It must have been pretty awesome,” she asked, Dave finding himself smiling ever so slightly.

“Thank you Roxy for being the only one to have some actual faith in my ability to be awesome. This is why you are the favorite sibling,” he said, realizing a second too late that the high-five she then offered him was probably a bad idea.

Shit,” he hissed, flinching and pulling his arm back.

“Oh fuck sorry!” she apologized, flailing around as it looked like she was trying to decide whether to go towards him and check out his arm herself or to pull back to avoid injuring him any further. Even being occupied, both of them managed to pointedly ignore Rose’s snickering in the background.

“It’s cool,” he tried to reassure her, rubbing his arm gently and trying not to aggravate it any further. “And the whole getting away from Redglare thing wasn't actually that awesome, she kind of just let me go for some reason,” he confessed. Roxy shrugged at his answer, seeming to have calmed down from the slight high-five induced panic.

“Hey, you still managed to survive a one on one fight with Redglare, even if she did let you go that’s still gotta earn you a few awesome points,” she said. It was probably an attempt at rescuing his ego, which yeah Dave could use at the moment.

“Well, if you two are done,” Rose started, walking back over to them. Dave shook his head as he interrupted her.

“I ain’t ever done, but go on.”

“If you two are done,” she repeated, a joking irritation in her voice, “this is actually very concerning.” Dave rolled his eyes and groaned.

“Dude I already told you Dirk just got on me about this,” he complained. Rose rolled her eyes at him as she continued.

“I’m aware, but listen anyway. From your report, it seems like this spirit knew who you were and was specifically targeting you. The fact that she let you live is an enormous red flag as well,” she started. Roxy was snickering next to him.

“Red flags, Redglare,” she muttered, and Dave found himself smirking at the truthfully really dumb joke. It was stupid enough to go right back around to being funny, which was how a lot of things Roxy said went. Most of the things, actually, when she wasn’t being serious, which was more often than not.

“I don’t think you should leave the house for a while,” Rose continued, ignoring the little interjection. Dave instantly bristled at the suggestion.

“What why? She let me go,” he tried to argue.

“And she might not next time. There has to be a reason she let you go, and I do not want to find out what that is,” she said, no room for argument in her voice. Dave wished he could cross his arms in order to complete the whole pouty teenager look.

“What if it was to find the house?” Roxy asked, cutting Dave off when he was about to fight back. The twins stared at her, neither quite understanding what she meant.

“Well I mean, we got the house blacked out from spirits ya know? What if they attacked and let Dave go so they could track him back home? I mean like, a lot of hunters live here, I’d wanna know where it is if I was an evil spirit,” she explained, Rose slowly nodding as she thought it over.

“That is a very good point. Maybe we should all leave,” she said after a moment.

“What about the whole me not leaving the house thing?” Dave asked, Rose rolling her eyes as she started out of the kitchen.

“Don’t be a smart ass, there’s obviously a change of plans,” she told him. “I’m going to talk to Dirk about this,” she added.

“You two aren’t in charge, shouldn’t we get Mom or Bro in on this?” he asked, both him and Roxy following her out to the living, but stopping in their tracks when she went upstairs.

“Of course we will,” she answered simply, before disappearing down the upstairs hallway and out of sight. The other two siblings stood there in silence for a moment before Roxy broke it with a sigh.

“Well, guess we should start packing,” she said, heading towards the stairs.

“What? We’re not seriously leaving are we?” Dave asked, because like hell could Rose and Dirk just decide something this big on their own. Their house was safe, they went through a lot of shit to make it that way, most of which Dave was too young to remember but he knew the effects. Spirits couldn’t see their home, or any of the other hunter’s for that matter.

“Look, I totes love Dirk and Rose, but you know how they can get, and like, Dirk is super serious about the whole security thing. Once he hears this he’s definitely not gonna let up, ya know? I think they’ll be able to get them to go along with it pretty quick,” she said, and Dave sighed, flopping down on the couch.

“God fucking damn it, you’re so right,” he groaned, Roxy nodding as she leaned against the wall.

“I know,” she agreed, nodding in a faux-solemn manner.

“Where are we even going to go here? I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bro or Mom had a whole back up house ready just in case because they’re both fucking psycho, but if that’s not it then what are our options?” Dave asked, Roxy walking over and sitting next to him on the couch as she seemed to think the question over.

“Well, I haven’t heard anything about a secret house, but you’re right that is def something they’d do. I guess we could crash with some of the others or at the base if secret-house isn’t a thing,” she answered, and Dave nodded because yeah that made sense.

“As long as I don’t have to stay with Eridan I’m good,” he said.

“Aw, he’s not that bad,” she argued.

“Yeah, I know,” he conceded before standing up, “Well yeah, we probably should start packing before the determined duo starts rushing us,” he added, starting towards the stairs himself. Roxy nodded, following him and heading towards her own room.

Once in his room, he found himself staring at all of his stuff in befuddlement for a few moments. Just how much was he supposed to be packing for here? Were they going to legit move or was this just going to be a couple of days thing? Thinking it over, he decided to just pack for a few days, and if they were actually going to leave they’d have to come back for the rest.

Dave had not realized how much arm movement was required in packing a duffle bag. Once he was finally finished he collapsed onto his bed, feeling way more tired than he felt he should be. Of course, once he thought about his past few hours it made quite a bit of sense.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when Rose opened his door and peaked her head in.

“We’re going to start heading out soon. We talked to Mom and Bro about it,” she told him, and Dave nodded without moving from his spot.

“Already packed, also I didn’t even know Bro was home,” he said.

“Mom called him,” she answered.

“Oh,” was all he said, finally pulling himself up to a sitting position. There was still a dull pain in his arms, but finally giving them a rest was starting to let the pain meds Mom had given him kick in a bit.

“Look, I’m sorry about all of this,” Rose started, but Dave was shaking his head.

“It’s cool, I was the one who got tricked. We’re just lucky Roxy thought of literally the only logical reason for this to have happened so that we don’t end up surprise attacked by a fuckton of spirits,” he answered. Rose nodded, moving to lean against the doorframe.

“Still, I’m glad you made it out alright,” she said, Dave quickly shaking his head and waving his hand as much as he could without causing too much pain.

“Yeah, yeah, genuine concern, twin bonding moment can we please not?” he grumbled, Rose rolling her eyes at hum but letting it go none the less.

“Well then, with that so eloquently out of the way, I thought I’d let you know that you and Dirk are staying with Sollux tonight,” she told him, changing the subject. Dave still found himself groaning and Jesus fuck he was being whiney today. Whatever, he was nearly killed he could bitch if he wanted to.

“Why there? Can’t I just crash at the base?” he asked.

“One, because he actually picked up the phone and said you could, so be thankful. Two, Mom and Bro wanted the base to themselves tonight to see if they could figure out what’s going on,” Rose explained.

“You put the numbers one and two in there just because we're talking about Sollux first of all. But chances are they just want us all out of their hair,” he complained, but stood up off his bed to go along with this anyway. Sollux wasn’t actually that bad of a dude, just weird and kind of an asshole. Like, over half of them including himself were kind of assholes though, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise.

Dave turned back towards his bed, hesitating slightly before picking up the duffle bag and slinging it over his shoulder, flinching at the pain. Rose didn’t comment on it thankfully, instead leading the way downstairs. Dirk and Rose were already in the living room with similar bags of their stuff.

“So, were are you two staying?” Dave asked as they started out of the house. Bro and Mom weren’t anywhere to be seen, but that wasn’t really all that unusual.

“Feferi was kind enough to offer us a room for a few days,” Rose explained. Dave nodded, getting into the backseat of the car and his twin sliding in next to him. Roxy was calling shotgun despite the fact that the two were already in the backseat, but no one bothered to point that out to her.

They dropped the girl’s off first at Feferi’s rather impressive house. Dave almost commented on the fact that they could all stay there no problem, but realized this was most likely another security thing. If spirits were watching the house they’d want to get them as off their trail as they could, which also explained the scatterbrained way Dirk had drove them there.

Soon enough the two pulled up to Sollux’s apartment complex, Dirk driving them around back to keep their car mostly out of sight. The elevator was broken when they got inside, Dave biting back his complaints about having to walk to the stop god damn story with a bag weighing him down and his arms sore as fuck.

Eventually, they managed to get to Sollux’s apartment.
Dirk knocked on the door, the two waiting about a minute listening to muffled yelling before it finally opened. Sollux frowned at them, stepping out of the way and letting them into the messy apartment. Papers and computer parts were strewn around the room, and there were even things scrawled on the walls.

“Thanks dude,” Dirk said, dropping his bag down on the couch by the door. Sollux nodded, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“Whatever, as long as you Striders don’t wreak anything we’re good,” he said.

“So where are we sleeping here?” Dave asked, not putting his bag down until he knew where he wouldn’t have to move it again. It was heavy and hurt to pick up so he’d like to do that as little as possible.

“There’s a spare room in the back, and the couch, so fight it out,” he answered, sounding bored about the whole thing.

“You can take the room,” Dirk said before Dave could properly start arguing about why he should get said room. The younger boy frowned, because that wasn’t fair.

“Are you sure? You can take it if you want,” he argued, because there was no way he was just gonna go along without some sort of argument. That wasn’t how this shit worked. Dave could see Dirk rolling his eyes behind his shades as he sat on the couch.

“Dude just take the room you’re the one with the fucked up arms,” Dirk told him, sounding fed up. Before Dave could argue back Sollux started speaking again.

“Come on DV, room’s this way,” he said, already starting towards the back of the apartment. Dave reluctantly started following him.

“So, Redglare huh?” Sollux asked as he opened the door for him. Dave just nodded, trying not to cringe when he pulled the bag off his shoulder and let it fall onto the messy as fuck bed. Not that his back home was much better.

“How’d she manage to get you alone?”

“Well when a blind girl asks you for help with her trapped guide dog you generally don’t say fuck you, do it yourself,” Dave explained, Sollux chuckling at him.

“You are too fucking nice dude, it’s going to get you killed,” he said. Dave rolled his eyes as he started going through his bag as fast as his arms would allow him to.

“Sorry for not being a complete ass like you dude, I’ll definitely work on that,” he mocked.

“It’s probably why that new spirit got away,” Sollux added on, Dave stiffening at the accusation. He turned around to glare at the other hunter, who was leaning against the door, smirking slightly.

“It got away because fucking Trickster showed up, in case you forgot,” he snapped.

“And the second time?” he asked, raising an eyebrow above his glasses.

“It just got away that time, it was too fast,” Dave defended. Sollux continued to look amused, and Dave realized he forgot just how much of a douchebag the guy could be.

“Too fast for a Strider? Well fuck we better get on that shit, have to call his dude the mother fucking flash or something,” he rambled, Dave practically growling as he turned back towards his bag.

“Fuck you, you know what I mean.”

“I don’t know man, you’re getting pretty defensive here,” he commented. Dave was about to start snapping at him again when Sollux put his hands up in defeat.

“I’m fucking with you DV, relax,” Sollux said. Dave carefully let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and attempted to do what he said and relax.

“Why the fuck is it that everyone we know are assholes?” he asked, Sollux shrugging.

“Probably because most people are. Anyway, don’t mess with my junk and try to get some rest, Redglare is fucking exhausting even when she isn’t trying to kill you,” Sollux said, causing Dave to frown.

“You’ve fought Redglare before?” he asked, Sollux nodding.

“Yeah, chick’s fucking psycho,” he said, and yeah Dave could definitely agree with that assessment. “But like I said, get some rest or something, it’s bad enough that useless fuck Eridan is already out of it,” Sollux added on.

“Right, at this rate you might have to leave the base once and a while,” Dave joked, Sollux flipping him the bird.

“Fuck you DV, now don’t bother me for the rest of the night,” the other boy said as he turned to leave the room. Dave just waved him off before collapsing down on the bed.

Fuck he was so tired. Things were so not supposed to go down like this today. He wasn’t even sure what was going to happen now. Their whole home could be compromised and he wouldn’t even be able to work for a while to distract himself.

Pushing some papers off the bed, he wasn’t even about to attempt to read them because he couldn’t read god damn Korean, he rolled over and closed his eyes. This was uncomfortable in two ways, once in that it pressed down on his arm, and second his glasses were pushing painfully into his face. Dave groaned, turning onto his back again and taking his shades off.

Maybe he just needed to get some sleep. Okay, he needed a lot more than that, but it was a start.

Sleeping on his back sucked.

---

Karkat waited for maybe another thirty minutes before Terezi appeared back in the treehouse. He attempted not to flinch at the sudden entrance and was quite aware at just how miserably he failed at that. He pushed that embarrassment behind him, turning towards the girl and scowling.

“Where’d you go?” he asked, unsure if he should stay seated or not. Terezi smiled down at him as she answered, and he decided standing up would allow her to be a lot less intimidating.

“Nowhere important, don’t you worry your pretty little head about it,” she said. Karkat frowned and pushed himself up off of the floor. He was just short enough to not hit the very low ceiling, although he supposed his head might go through it or something.

Honestly, he wasn’t too sure how he went through some things and not others. It probably had something to do with his perception or whatever, if he thought he could go through it or not. He figured it’d just be best not to question it. Or at least wait to question it for when he was back with John and could ask him.

“Alright fine, it’s none of my business anyway, I probably don’t even want to know. It’s almost dark, can we go out and find John soon?” he asked, Terezi groaning at him.

“Yes, we’ll find Mr. Blueberry Blast, don’t worry,” she told him. Karkat nodded a bit reluctantly, turning to glance over at Gamzee, still asleep in the corner.

“Should we wake him up before we leave?” Karkat asked.

“He sure as hell isn’t staying in here, that’s for sure,” Terezi said, glancing out what seemed to have been a window at one point. “I guess you can get on that, it’s pretty much dark enough if you want to head out now,” she told him. Karkat sighed, walking over to the taller spirit and prodding him with his foot.

“Hey, wake up we’re heading out,” he said, a bit surprised when Gamzee opened his eyes and looked up at him. He’d expected it to be harder to wake him up than that, he seemed pretty god damn out of it, but fuck it he wasn’t going to complain.

“We’re going out to look for John again,” he repeated, Gamzee simply nodding before disappearing in front of him. Karkat jumped back and cursed under his breath, trying to ignore Terezi’s laughter behind him.

“Meet us down at the base of the tree, okay?” she said once she stopped laughing, gone from view when Karkat turned back around to look at her. Grumbling to himself, he slowly managed to crawl out of the treehouse, clinging as hard as he could to the tree as he shimmied his way down, only letting go once he could tap solid ground with his foot.

“Wow, you are really bad at that,” Terezi said once he let go of the tree.

“Fuck you, I already said this isn’t something I ever did before. How the hell do you guys do the teleport thing? That would make shit a whole fucking lot easier,” he asked, trying to hide his embarrassment.

“Sorry, but you are definitely not up to doing anything like that yet. Let’s just go find your fairy god ghost,” she said, staring off in as far as Karkat could tell was a random direction.

“How are you going to find him?” he asked, ignoring the dumb nickname she’d given him. Terezi simply shrugging as she walked along the forest path.

“Don’t you worry about it alright? We’ll find him in less than an hour, I guarantee it,” she announced, and Karkat just sighed and decided it’d be best to go with it. It wasn’t long before they were nearing the edge of the forest, heading in a direction Karkat didn’t recognize, not that that was exactly hard to do.

Just as she’d said, about an hour later they started entering an area that Karkat deemed ‘yes, could possibly be a spot for ghosts’. It looked like it was some sort of old construction site. There were these large pipes littered around the area and not a soul around. Or well three souls, hopefully four if Terezi wasn’t fucking with him.

“Do you think he’s here?” he asked once they came to a stop. Terezi nodded, and Gamzee started wondering off from them, but Karkat didn’t pay him much mind.

“Oh, he is definitely around here somewhere,” she told him with certainty.

“Hey, I found the tricky motherfucker,” Gamzee called from back behind a few pipes. Karkat would have been surprised about how he got over there so fast if he couldn’t literally fucking teleport.

“Oh! Heh, hey Gamzee, what are you doing here?” Karkat could hear John asking as he drew nearer and breathed a sigh of relief. There was a very real possibility that this whole thing was an elaborate ruse by these two but if John was here that most likely wasn’t the case.

“The Karbro was lookin for you brother,” Gamzee answered.

“The kar… Oh! Hi Karkat! You’re okay, that’s awesome,” John said, just noticing the spirit when he finally walked into view. Karkat fixed the other boy with a glare and practically snarled at him.

“Yes, and I’ve only been looking for you for over a day! Why did you ditch me like that?” he asked.

“Sorry man, I didn’t expect hunters to just show up so soon. I tried to look for you after they left but you ran off,” John explained. Karkat signed, running his hand down his face in exasperation.

“Of fucking course I ran the fuck away, those hunters were trying to kill us!” he snapped.

“Alright fair enough, but how did you manage to find Gamzee and um, oh… uh, hi Terezi,” John started to ask, seeming surprised and stumbling on his words slightly when the girl appeared.

“Hello Egbert,” she answered in a clipped voice and holy shit there was definitely something awkward going on here. Once again the question of what the fuck had he gotten himself into ran through Karkat’s head, remaining horribly unanswered.

“Okay, how exactly did you manage to end up with Gamzee and Terezi?” John asked again, seeming to get a bit of a hold on himself. He kept sneaking glances at Terezi though, as if he was afraid she was going to jump him or something. This was further cementing his suspicions that this girl was possibly just as terrifyingly unstable as Gamzee seemed.

He didn’t actually have proof that Gamzee was that way either, but the gut feeling was way too strong for him to ignore. He’d always been pretty good at reading people.

“I don’t know. Gamzee found me and took me to Terezi to help find you, and it looks like it worked because here you are,” Karkat answered, trying to ignore whatever was going on because he did not sign up for this shit. He hadn’t signed up for any of it, but some of it was unavoidable and he was starting to accept that.

“Wow, you are like a ghost magnet or something,” John joked, but Karkat couldn’t help but wonder if there was some truth in that. Running into this many spirits in such a short time was not normal, or at least he was assuming it wasn’t. Of course, he never exactly had much luck, so maybe whatever cosmic energy controlled his life decided to give him a break after fucking killing him and let him find some people who could help him out.

“Yeah, I guess,” he muttered, not entirely sure what to say.

“So, John,” Terezi started, and Karkat was once again reminded that there was definitely something going on here that he did not know about. John’s smile seemed quite a bit more hesitant and forced than Karkat had seen before, and Terezi seemed kind of serious which was definitely a first. He hadn’t known either of them long but this whole scene screamed something was off. There was some sort of history here and he did not want to know what it was.

“Terezi, what’s up?” John asked, laughing in a way that was in no way natural. Karkat was pretty sure the girl had rolled her eyes, and it was just as disturbing as the last time she’d done it.

“Not much, same old same old, helping those in need, being a genuinely great person. So, how is she?” she asked, and okay Karkat was officially lost. John laughed again in that sort of shaky manner and rubbed the back of his head.

“Oh, I don’t really know. I haven’t seen her in a while so…” he trailed off.

“More recently than I have, I’m sure,” Terezi countered. John sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

“Yeah, I guess. From the last time we hung out she’s fine, but really, I haven’t seen her in a few months, at least. I’ve been thinking about going to visit her soon but I haven’t really had a chance. I’ll let her know you asked about her if you want though,” John said. Terezi turned on her heals, making a grandiose show of not caring as she answered him.

“Doesn’t matter to me, I just think it’s cute that she has such a dork like you taking care of her,” Terezi said, that joking, ironically enough trickster tone back in her voice. John huffed, crossing his arms and pouting.

“I do not take care of her! We’re just friends okay. She’s really not that bad, um, anymore, I guess. I wasn’t there when everything happened,” John argued. She turned back towards him, hands on her hips.

“Relax, will you? I’m not the one holding the grudge here, it’s just too fun watching you freak out about it,” Terezi said, that large smile breaking out across her face. John sighed and rolled his eyes, but whatever strange awkward air that had settled over them before seemed to have disappeared for the moment.

“Where the fuck did Gamzee go?” Karkat asked, just now realizing that the large spirit was nowhere to be seen. John shrugged, not seeming too concerned with this fact.

“Eh, he’s kind of a weird dude. He just sort of disappears and stuff sometimes. Don’t worry about it,” he said, Terezi nodding in agreement.

“You’re better off without him, trust me,” she added.

“Whatever, I don’t give a shit anyway,” Karkat mumbled.

“Well, I should probably head out too,” Terezi said, turning to fix Karkat was a frankly kind of terrifying grin. “If you ever need any more of my help, don’t hesitate to ask,” she told him before disappearing and Jesus fuck the only thing that would make that even creepier would have been if there was a puff of smoke when she left. Actually, that might have ruined it and turned it into some parlor trick.

John sighed loudly after a moment before fixing Karkat with a look.

Really? It had to be Terezi, of all people?” he asked, and Karkat sputtered as he turned away from the empty spot that had once held the girl towards the other spirit.

“I have no fucking idea what just happened, okay? If you have some sort of weird history with her that is absolutely none of my business, I was just trying to find you and Gamzee said that would be the quickest way!” he argued. John just rolled his eyes at him and leaned against one of the large metal pipes close by.

“There’s no history! I mean, okay, there’s history, but I’m not a part of it. Terezi just doesn’t really get along with her sister all that well and I don’t blame her for that considering everything but she’s my friend so it’s kind of awkward,” John explained. Karkat groaned, trying to tell himself that he was not going to get caught up in this shit.

“I just said it’s none of my business. Wait a second, what do you mean sister? How the fuck does a ghost have a sister?” he asked, just now processing what John had said. The other spirit just raised an eyebrow at his question.

“They were sisters and then they became ghosts? I mean, I’ve already mentioned them to you, the scourge sisters, remember?” he asked, and Karkat swore he could feel his nonexistent stomach drop.

“Fuck, weren’t those the ones you said were from the fucking Middle Ages or something?” he asked.

“Well, more like two hundred or so years ago but yeah they’re old,” he said. Karkat wasn’t all that sure how but he found himself on the floor once again as he proceeded to process this information.

“Wow, you really do collapse a lot. Are you okay?” John asked, and Karkat snarled at him from his place on the ground.

“I’m fucking fine, you hear me? I’m just trying to process the fact that that psychopath is fucking centuries old! How the fuck? There is no god damn way that’s right,” he rambled, John just shrugging and not seeming overly concerned with his panic.

“It’s right, but don’t worry about it. The whole age thing really isn't something that concerns us. She’s a little crazy yeah, but most of us are, you get used to it. Heh, if you think Terezi’s bad you should meet Vriska,” John told him, Karkat shaking his head before he could even finish his sentence.

“Fuck no! I am not meeting anything else right now, especially not someone even worse than those two,” he argued, brain refusing the idea of having to deal with anyone else right now. He wasn’t used to dealing with people, okay? Gamzee and Terezi hadn’t actually been that bad, but it had still worn him pretty thin.

“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t throw you at Vriska without warning. She’s my friend but even I know that she can definitely be too much for some people,” the other spirit reassured him. Karkat sighed and nodded, positioning himself so that his legs were crossed, making it look like he’d sat down completely of his own accord and not due to anything dumb like being overwhelmed once again.

“So um, how did you do that fire thing?” Karkat asked after a moment, deciding to change the subject. A large smile spread across John’s face at the question.

“That was pretty awesome huh? It was just an illusion, like how we can do with our bodies. Most spirits don’t bother with really big cool ones like that, cause they take a lot of energy, but I think they’re great,” he explained, and Karkat nodded. That actually made a lot of sense. He hadn’t been sure if the fire was real or not for a while there, since he wasn’t sure how much he could interact with temperature anymore so maybe that had been why it was cold.

“Are there any other freaky as fuck powers I should know about? That teleporting shit was getting on my nerves,” he asked, John shrugging.

“It depends on the spirit? Like, I don’t really know for sure, but I think Terezi can see the future or something. She won’t give me a straight answer about it though,” he said. Karkat sighed, slumping his head into his arms.

“Why is it that my only option for company now is a bunch of super powered freak demons?” he grumbled, John just laughing at him.

“It’s great, isn’t it?” he asked back, Karkat just rolling his eyes at his enthusiasm.

“Whatever. So, Terezi’s eyes and Jade’s dumb dog ears and that weird as fuck corpse thing you did when you fought that hunter were all illusions?” he asked, wanting to get more information on this thing. He wasn’t sure if he would ever use it, but John was right that it might come in handy if he was ever trapped again.

The other spirit was laughing again, but it sounded forced. Nerves started to run up and down Karkat’s spine at the sound.

“Um, Jade’s ears are, yeah,” he said after a moment, the frown that was pretty much permanently on Karkat’s face getting even deeper.

“And those other thing?” he asked, almost not wanting an answer.

“Well, our true form I guess you could call it? What we look like without any illusions, it’s what we looked like when he died. Terezi had her eyes stabbed out right beforehand, but kind of liked the look so she decided to keep it I guess?” John explained.

“So you actually look like a fucking charred corpse?”

“Yeah…” the other spirit answered, the next question spilling from Karkat’s mouth before he could think it through.

“What happened to you?” He instantly regretted the question, because wow rude for one thing. The other reason was that the smile that was almost always on John’s face had vanished, replaced with a small frown.

“There was an explosion and I’d rather not go into any more detail, thanks,” he said, Karkat flinching at the cold tone.

“Sorry,” he muttered, the smile almost instantly coming back to John’s face as he attempted to wave away Karkat’s concern.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it!” he insisted, although Karkat was not sure how true that was. He didn’t want anyone asking about his death, but then again his was a whole fucking lot more recent. He hesitate before asking his next question but his god damn curiosity managed to get him to say it despite this.

“So, what you look like now, is there any truth in that or did you decide to just make up something from scratch?”

“This is real, I mean, if I wasn’t horribly disfigured it’d be what I’d look like, yeah. I'm not sure what'd I'd change if I wanted to do something like that. You’re not using any illusions right now, are you?” he asked, and Karkat shook his head.

“I don’t fucking know how to, so no.”

“Wow, you looked really good when you died. I bet they were able to have an open casket funeral and everything,” John said. Karkat found himself unable to do anything but stare at him for a moment because who the fuck even says things like that? Holy shit, there’s no way being a ghost doesn’t fuck up your brain over time.

“You are creepy as fuck and don’t say anything like that to me ever again,” Karkat managed to say, John laughing at him. Karkat sighed, he didn’t have enough energy to yell at him anymore. Sleeping had helped but he still felt run down. Maybe it just hadn’t been enough. He sure as fuck hoped it didn’t mean he needed to eat again soon.

“Hey,” Karkat started, John having managed to stifle most of his laughter by this point. “Exactly how often do we need to, um, eat?” he asked, slight hesitation in his voice. Honestly, he would rather talk about his own funeral than this, but he was starting to recognize it wasn’t something he could entirely ignore.

He would ignore it for as long as he could, but he needed to know how long that was first.

“Why, are you hungry again already?” John asked back. Karkat furiously shook his head, having to push some of his thick hair back that had fallen out of place because of that. Not that his hair was all that organized to begin with. Or organized at all, actually, but it was out of his face for the most part.

“Fuck no, I just want to know how long it is until I have to go through that god damn trauma again,” the younger spirit explained.

“Oh, well, it depends. If you get hurt or something like last time, you’d probably have to eat right away. Other than that though, we’re both younger, so we need to eat more often than like, Terezi would. Maybe like once a month or so, it’s really not that bad,” John explained. Once a month still sounded pretty god damn bad to Karkat, but fuck he supposed he could deal with that. It was better than once a week or something like that.

“How did you even learn all of this, trial and error?” he asked. John shook his head, pulling himself up on top of the pipe and starting o swinging his legs.

“Nah, Vriska really helped me out in the beginning. I probably would have been picked off by hunters pretty fast if it wasn’t for her. I guess that’s why I feel like I should help you,” he explained.

“Alright, that makes sense,” Karkat muttered. “I guess if I ever meet her I should say thanks. I fucking definitely would have been killed twice over by those fuckers if it wasn’t for you. Three times, or fuck, whatever, I’d be ever deader than I am right now,” He rambled.

“Oh, she’d love that,” John told him.

“So, now what?” Karkat asked after a moment.

“What do you mean?” John said, tilting his head as he looked down at the other spirit. Karkat shrugged, not quite sure what he meant either.

“What are we doing now? Are we just going to shit around for the rest of the night or what?” he elaborated. John smiled and shrugged his shoulders in response.

“I don’t know. You get overwhelmed pretty easily, which is totally fine by the way all of this is really new and kind of disturbing on some level I’ll admit that,” John started, Karkat glaring at him despite the boy’s attempts to say it was okay.

“But anyway,” the spirit continued, “point is I don’t want to do anything to freak you out and you said you weren’t up to meeting anymore else tonight, so I’m not sure,” he finished.

“Not everything freaks me out,” Karkat tried to argue, even though from what John had seen so far he hadn’t made a good case for himself.

“I’m sure! How about we just walk around town or something? It’s actually better to be moving, since it makes it harder for hunters to track us. I don’t think we’d need to be worried about getting attacked again so soon, but you never know,” John said. Karkat sighed before nodding, pushing himself up off the ground.

“Fine, maybe you can show me some places to check in case we ever do get separated again so I that I don’t have to rely on happening upon random spirits and hoping they decide to help. Shit, I don’t want to pick the wrong one again and make things awkward for you, that’d be fucking horrible,” he rambled. John chuckled and nodded.

“That’s a good idea. I never had to worry about that when I was new and staying with Vriska, the hunters wouldn’t dream of attacking her,” he said, starting out of the construction site. Karkat raised an eyebrow in question as he started to follow him.

“And why’s that?”

“Because,” John started with a grin, “they don’t want to die,” he finished, a tone of absolute certainty in his voice. Karkat felt a shudder run down his back at the answer.

“Alright, that is definitely a reason,” he mumbled after a moment.

Yeah, even if she was apparently John’s ‘friend,’ he did not want to run into this spirit any time soon.

It was dark, and Karkat still wasn’t used to how well he could see. It wasn’t perfect, like it was day or something, but it was definitely better than when he was alive. It was just a little difference, but it was still a bit jarring.

Everything was fucking jarring but he was starting to get a little better at bouncing back. Maybe he would be able to handle this after all.

John made a joke about them meeting up in cemeteries and pranking people, and when Karkat tried to hit him his hand went straight through the other boy.

Yeah, he could handle this.

Chapter Text

John was a fucking creep. This became even more obvious when despite his very clear demand to never speak about such things ever a-fucking-gain, it turned out to be quite difficult to convince him to stay out of the cemetery and that Karkat did not in fact want to see if they could find his own grave.

They ended up going with the simplest solution and having the construction site as their meet up place if they were ever split up again. The burned out school would be the backup, since Karkat knew where both of those places were now for the most part. He sincerely hoped that they wouldn’t come to having to use them though, at least any time soon. That would mean that they most likely had another encounter with those hunters, and he sort of doubted that he’d be able to last a third time.

Either way, that problem solved left them with most of the night now to figure out what to do, and Karkat was suddenly feeling very apprehensive about the idea of living hundreds of years.

It wasn’t like he could grow up now or get a job or go to school or anything else that could take up his time. He hadn't exactly had many options when he was alive, but there was always that 'once he gets better' that he was supposed to hold out for, and then he could do what he wanted. Psh, that sure worked out for him didn’t it? Maybe all the spirits were insane due to the incisive amount of boredom they all faced.

He and John were in a park now, although it wasn’t the one Karkat remembered going to when he was alive. He couldn’t help but wonder just how far they were from the hospital and things he knew. There was a chance they weren’t even in the same town. The first week was pretty much a blur to him, but he remembered running a lot. Maybe that was why he didn’t fucking recognize a god damn thing. It would certainly explain quite a bit.

Karkat tried to think of what they were supposed to be doing now. Apparently it was up to him since John didn’t want to ‘overwhelm’ him. He knew he had no real reason to be annoyed with that, since it was a pretty legitimate concern with how he’d been acting so far. When it got right down to it though, fuck that shit he was still going to be annoyed. Even if it was all true he was tired of people thinking he was weak.

John went from standing by an old slide to sitting up on a tree branch in the amount of time it took Karkat to blink, and he decided that could be a start.

“How the hell do you all do that? I tried to ask Terezi but she just said it wasn’t worth it because I’m too weak to try,” he asked, walking over so that he was standing under the tree John was in. The other spirit frowned as he seemed to think the question over.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to describe. You just sort of, like, imagine yourself somewhere, and then poof! You’re there,” he said, and Karkat rolled his eyes at the explanation because that didn’t sound like it was going to help him any.

“I guess it doesn’t even matter since I wouldn’t be able to do it with how I am now, right?” he asked, John surprising him by shaking his head.

“It doesn’t hurt to try it, hey, why don’t you come up here with me?” he said, Karkat eyeing the other spirit suspiciously before sighing and attempting to do what John had said before. So, he is just supposed to imagine himself up there?

He closed his eyes, trying to picture himself sitting on one of the branches but having a hard time doing so. After a moment he groaned in irritation, opening his eyes and glaring at John still up in the tree.

“It’s not fucking working,” he said, knowing he was pretty much just stating the obvious here but not sure what else to say. John was smiling, looking like he was trying to suppress some laughter as he answered him.

“I meant just climb up with me and we can try to teleport from here. It’d be kind of bad if you missed the spot you were thinking of and ended up falling out of the tree, after all,” John explained, Karkat quickly looking away from him to hide his embarrassment. It wasn’t like he’d been that specific. The spirit cursed under his breath as he started towards the tree.

“What the fuck is it with you god damn spirits and making me climb shitty fucking trees?” he grumbled as he worked his way up. At the very least he was starting to get a hang of this, so he didn’t look quite as pathetic as he did at Terezi’s. John didn’t make any move to help him or ask what he was talking about, both of which were good for his ego.

Eventually, he managed to pull himself up onto the branch John was sitting on, trusting that they wouldn’t break it on account of being ghosts. Even if he couldn’t control that shit John seemed to have it down so he tried to make himself not worry.

He wondered for a second if they could fly. During the last fight with those hunters it sure seemed like John was doing something pretty damn close, but he couldn’t really say for sure. Before he could go too far into this new line of thought the other spirit distracted him.

“Okay, now I guess just try to imagine yourself over by those swings,” John said once he managed to settle himself, pointing towards a swing set about ten feet away from them. Karkat nodded, closing his eyes once again and tried to picture himself on the ground, standing by the rusted old swings and looking over at the tree he was currently in.

Then he felt a hand on his back, pushing him forward and off of the branch. He was flailing in the air for a moment, eyes managing to open just before he hit the ground with a dull thud.

“What the ever loving fuck was that for!?” Karkat screeched the second his mind was able to catch up with what happened. Okay, if flying was a thing it wasn’t something he could do yet, clearly. He twisted himself so that he was no longer face down in the dirt and instead looking up at the other spirit, still sitting in the tree like he was as fucking innocent as could be.

“You were supposed to teleport!” John called down at him, sounding almost disappointed. Karkat sputtered in rage, pushing himself off of the ground so that he could stand and yell at this fucker properly.

“I was trying to before you felt the need to push me out of a fucking tree you undying jackass!” he yelled, John rolling his eyes at him.

“I just thought it would make things go faster,” the other spirit explained, standing next to Karkat again before he could even formulate his response. “That’s how Vriska taught me,” John added on, Karkat’s hand going through him when he attempted to hit the other spirit once again, the other boy having to hold back laughing at that. He growled slightly at this fact before turning away from him and starting out of the dumb playground. He didn’t know if it was because he couldn’t touch him, or if John was making himself transparent.

“This Vriska you keep talking about is a fucking psychopath,” he spat. He tried to keep himself from acknowledging John walking next to him once again, looking like he was thinking over what Karkat had said before nodding.

“You’re right about that, actually,” he said, Karkat rolling his eyes at him.

“Whatever, no more fucking lessons from you, especially if you’re going to be using any more Vriska techniques or whatever the fuck you want to call them,” he snapped.

“Alright fine,” John said with a sigh, “don’t get so bent out of shape about it, it’s not like I hurt you or anything,” he added. Karkat shrugged, because yeah now that he was focusing on it he wasn’t hurt any. If he thought about it, he’d jumped from much higher when he ran from that hunter last time, but that wasn’t the point so he still had every right to be irritated about this.

“Just don’t fucking do it again,” he muttered, slowing down from the near run he hadn’t noticed he’d been doing. John had been keeping up with him with no problem, but even still he slowed down if just for convenience sake. It wasn’t like they had anywhere to be at the moment. Or ever again, most likely.

John was staying quiet for the most part as they walked, most likely just waiting for Karkat to have settled down again. Karkat didn’t even know where they were going now, but John was following him for the most part so chances were anywhere that didn’t have a lot of people around. It was really late at night now, and so as long as they stayed away from the inner city they were probably good.

Karkat wasn’t sure how long they’d been walking for when John stopped without warning. When he looked back at the other spirit, there was a smile across his face that was making Karkat very nervous. That feeling only increased when he turned away from whatever he’d been looking at back to him.

“Okay, I know you didn’t want to meet anyone else tonight but-” he started, Karkat turning away from him and starting down the street again before he could even finish his sentence.

No, no fuck no, whoever it is can just fucking stay as they are because I am not doing any more of that shit tonight! Fuck, can’t we just find a place to stay for the day, it’ll be light in a few hours I’m pretty sure,” the spirit said. John made a disappointed noise before appearing in front of him, forcing him to stop walking for a moment.

“Come on! I promise they’re not even crazy or anything! Like, seriously! He’s really pretty new too and I don’t think you’d hate him. Come on please,” he begged, Karkat groaning in frustration before sighing in defeat.

“Fucking fine, as long as it’s not some ancient insane entity I suppose I will give them one chance. Just fucking one, you hear me? As soon as I start getting a bad vibe we are leaving, no fucking questions asked,” he relented, John’s smile back full force as he nodded before grabbing Karkat’s arm and pulling him across the street.

Okay, it was probably John making himself untouchable whenever he tried to hit him then, since he seemed to have no problem touching him now. Fucking asshole, he’d have to get him to stop that.

“Hi Sollux! How’ve you been?” John called out to a figure Karkat hadn’t noticed until it was several feet away from them. The person turned towards them he could see a bit more details, and it was then that he could see that he was rather transparent. Not as bad as Karkat was, but it was much more noticeable than any of the other spirits he’d seen so far. Besides himself, that is. He was pretty sure he had them all beat on that front.

“Sup JN, who’s this?” this new spirit asked, Karkat noticing both a lisp and slight accent in his voice.

“This is Karkat, he’s new so I’ve been helping him out,” John explained. This guy, John had called him Sollux, right, nodded, turning to look Karkat over.

“Yeah, I can see that,” he said after a moment. “So new guy, how’s being dead treating you?” Sollux asked, leaning against the brink wall by them, hands stuffed in his hoodie pocket. Karkat rolling his eyes at the question, not even sure if it was something he was supposed to take seriously. Of course, most of the spirits, or really all of the ones he’d met so far seemed perfectly fine with death, so fuck it was probably a legitimate question.

“It sucks. I was attacked by hunters twice already and this asshole just pushed me out of a tree for no good reason,” he said.

“I was trying to teach him to teleport,” John elaborated, not sounding the least bit ashamed. Sollux just chuckled at them, pushing his weird glasses farther up his nose. Like looked like something you’d watch a 3-D movie with and Karkat decided that there was absolutely no way they served any sort of practical purpose.

“Man, don’t trust JN like that. There’s a fucking reason people call him the trickster,” Sollux said, Karkat nodding in agreement.

“Yeah, I’m starting to realize that,” Karkat muttered, noticing that despite that he seemed to be telling the truth in this case. Sollux did not seem to be giving him the same instinctual feeling of ‘this person is fucking psycho’ that most of the other spirits did so far. Maybe it was because he wasn’t as horribly ancient as the others apparently. Chalk up more evidence to the ‘the longer you’re a ghost the more you lose your mind’ theory.

Whatever it was though, it was definitely a much needed change for him, that was for sure.

“Hey, JN, have you seen KN?” Sollux asked John a bit randomly, and Karkat had to wonder what it was with ghosts and weird nicknames. First Gamzee had to either had bro to the end of everything or just call people motherfuckers, and then Terezi with just everything she called anyone, and now this guy.

God, he hoped he didn’t end up picking up a similar habit. John didn’t seem to do anything like that so he supposed it wasn’t inevitable or anything like that.

John shook his head as he answered the other spirit’s question. Karkat filed away in his head to ask who this KN was later. He figured probably another spirit, but he was starting to think it’d be better to know about as many as he could so that he couple prepare himself if he ever ran into any of them.

“No, I haven’t seen her. Why, what’s up?” John asked, Sollux shrugging his shoulders at the question.

“She wanted to meet up but oh look, she’s nowhere to be found, what a fucking surprise. I tried to send her a text but she still can’t figure out cellphones. It’s hilarious when it’s not annoying,” Sollux told them, John laughing a bit and nodding in agreement.

“Yeah, it is, especially since like, Vriska and Jane and other people don’t have any problems. But I haven’t seen her in a while, sorry,” he said.

“Yeah that’s fine. Well, I’d love to stay and talk more bullshit but I need to find her before it gets too early,” Sollux told them.

“Do you want some help?” John offered. Before the other guy could answer that question Karkat was butting in, because oh hell no. He wasn’t as awful as he could have been yeah, but he wasn’t going to be looking for some other random spirit he knew nothing about for no good reason when he’d only just found the one he did know.

“No, no I’m sure he’s perfectly fucking fine without our help,” he snapped. John’s shoulder’s drooped, and he was already starting to whine. God it was annoying, especially since Karkat had already demonstrated that he wasn't the best at saying no to people.

“Aw, come on Karkat, relax a little,” he said, but Karkat was shaking his head, absolutely refusing to ‘relax a little.’

“I’ve already done this much, I’m not about to go on another fucking wild goose chase after I just fucking found you, alright?” he declared, not about to back down on this. Before John could argue some more, Sollux cut in, which Karkat found himself thankful for. He would never admit it, but the chances of him breaking sooner or later were very high.

“It’s cool, I’ll see you later,” he said. John huffed but seemed to accept this decision for the moment.

“Okay fine, later Sollux,” he said, the other spirit waving halfheartedly before walking away disappearing as he went. It was different from the sudden vanishing that everyone else seemed to do, where instead he just faded away. Karkat was not about to ask.

“Are we done now? Fuck, I’m exhausted,” Karkat said, John turning back towards him, looking a bit concerned.

“Yeah, we can start heading in for the day I guess. Are you sure you weren’t hurt when we fought those hunters last time? I don’t know if it’s normal for you to be this tired,” John asked, and Karkat shrugged, because fuck if John wasn’t sure then he certainly wasn’t.

“I don’t remember getting hit much, although maybe jumping out of that window wasn’t the best idea? Fuck I don’t know, how was it for you when you first became a spirit?” he asked. John laughed, scratching the back of his head as he started leading them back down the street.

“Eh, I don’t think it’d be fair to compare, I kind of got a head start that most don’t,” he said, and Karkat just rolled his eyes.

“Vriska again?” he asked, surprised when John shook his head.

“Nah, she was a help and all, but this was before Vriska. Um, I’d rather not talk about it, and you probably wouldn’t want to know, trust me,” John told him, and Karkat decided to just concede at that. He didn’t know what he was talking about, but he could imagine a whole slew of things he’d like to keep not knowing. It didn’t seem worth it, to tell the truth.

“Alright whatever. Maybe I just need some more sleep,” he muttered, John nodding in agreement.

“Yeah, that’d probably be a good thing to try. I know you wouldn’t want to eat unless it was necessary,” John said, and yeah fuck that shit.

It didn’t take them too long to get back to the abandoned construction site, where Karkat was assuming they were going to stay for the day. John crawled inside one of the largest pipes, and after much hesitation Karkat followed after him. It was definitely large enough for the both of them, and it did keep them out of sight of anyone for the day.

He didn’t expect to actually fall asleep, but it seemed his body (or whatever the fuck he had now) had other plans. He was out before the sun rose.

---

When Dave woke up the next morning he was disoriented for a few moments before the events from the previous day came rushing back to him. Groaning, he tried to see if he could push himself up without any pain. Ouch. Okay, no he could not, but he was sitting up now so at least that problem was taken care of.

Slowly he reached over and grabbed his shades, rubbing at his eyes before putting them on. Afterwards he glanced around the room, trying to see if there was some clock on the walls. There wasn’t one, so he just grabbed his phone. The time surprised him a bit, not expecting to have gotten up on his own before noon. Sure, it was only about a half an hour beforehand, but it was still more than he expected with everything from yesterday.

Running a hand through his hair, Dave didn’t bother looking for a mirror as he got out of bed and started out of the room. He was pretty positive that the only mirror in the entire apartment was the one in the bathroom, and that was because it was both there when Sollux moved in as well as attached to the wall.

Dirk wasn’t in the living room when he walked in, and he assumed that he must have already left for work, which yeah wasn’t a surprise in the slightest. He wasn’t even sure if the guy slept sometimes, honestly.

He was looking through the fridge and getting the feeling that Sollux may survive solely on honey-based products when the other boy walking into the room.

“Sup DV,” he said, moving past Dave and grabbing one of the jars out of the fridge, putting some bread in the toaster as well.

“Are you even supposed to keep honey in the fridge?” Dave asked, Sollux shrugging.

“Fuck if I know,” he said, and yeah okay he guessed it couldn’t be bad for it. Might make it like, super hard though, but whatever he didn’t even like honey so it wasn’t any of his business. He moved from the fridge and found some doughnuts in one of the cabinets and decided to eat that instead.

“So, do you work today?” Dave asked, grabbing himself a drink as the other boy spread some of the honey on his toast.

“Now I do. Thanks a lot for that by the way, really appreciate it,” Sollux told him, Dave taking a bite of his doughnut before answering.

“Not a problem man. Getting my arms torn to shreds and having to stay away from my house were A+ activities, ten out of ten would definitely recommend,” he joked. “Okay but seriously, did Dirk tell you anything before he left? Am I allowed to leave the apartment or what?” he asked, not sure if Rose’s whole thing about him not leaving the house for a while still applied.

If you were to ask him, he thought he should be at the base helping everyone figure out what to do about Redglare. He’d been the one attacked after all, but it didn’t seem like that had even came up as an option at this point. Sure, they had his report, but he still felt like he would be kind of valuable during this discussion.

God damn dumb probably reasonably overprotective family.

“Yeah, I talked to him, he says you have to stay here, which by the way tell him thanks for asking me if that was okay, you Striders are so fucking thoughtful it makes my heart hurt man,” Sollux told him. Dave remembered that when he wasn’t being an asshole to him specifically he could definitely understand Sollux's suffering.

“Don’t worry man, I’ll let him know at the first opportunity. I won’t let your message fall on deaf ears, you can trust me I won’t let you down,” he rambled.

“Alright good, now I need to get going. Don’t eat all my fucking food and order a pizza or something. Wifi password’s fuckyoudonteventry612,” Sollux said, starting out of the kitchen. Dave nodded, following him into the living room and trying to make sure he had that password in his head. It didn’t seem all that hard to remember thankfully.

“Yeah, alright later dude,” Dave said, Sollux giving his an offhanded wave as he left the apartment. Dave flopped down on the couch by him, pulling his phone out of his pocket and logging onto the wifi.

God, he was already bored and he’d barely been up for five minutes. He sent Rose a small barrage of texts, mostly complaining about how shit was getting interesting for once and yet he the main person involved in all of this was being ostracized from the action and how completely unfair this was. She didn’t answer him, and he figured she was already neck deep in creepy voodoo shit. She’d get back to him eventually, but until then he just had to wait.

The more he thought about this, the more convinced he was that it had something to do with that new spirit. The thing had been a pain in his ass since he first attempted to destroy it, and now it was being linked with three increasingly powerful spirits.

Trickster they could deal with. Difficult and dangerous and slippery as fuck, but manageable once they could get their hands on him. Fucking Redglare was something they were well aware was out of their league, unless they were to do a mass attack with most of their people.

And the Ringmaster? Fuck that guy.

Okay, he was definitely not biased in this thinking either. They had no idea how long that fucking clown had been around for one thing, but he was just as strong as the spiderbitch, at least. That didn’t even take into account the fucking terror he could cause.

Dave was sure he was capable of some sort of mind-emotion altering bullshit, because there was no other option as to why he freaked him out so god damn much. Okay, there was a good reason for that, but it wasn’t just him who felt that way about the clown so that was proof enough for him.

Thinking about the Ringmaster, he’d been the closest call he had before this. Trying to look at the two incidents objectively, he tried to figure out which one had actually been worse, now thoroughly past all of that dumb panic and shit from the initial attack biasing him towards this new attack. He’d been alone this time, which put his odds way down. On the other hand he was also able to actually fucking hold a sword now and understand what was going on to attempt to work his way out of the mess.

None of that did anything for him this time, but the only reason he’d survived last time hadn’t been at any of their doing. God, he hadn’t thought about this in a while. It was kind of freaky remembering that he, Rose, and Dirk had nearly been fucking obliterated that night.

Dave Strider was nine years old and he did not get what was so ironic about going to a haunted house, but for some reason Dirk thought it was hilarious. He was sure that the older boy had a better idea about this stuff than he did though, so he was going along with it.

The only person who knew more about irony than Dirk that he knew after all was Bro, so he was sure that going to a haunted house was definitely ironic and cool on lots of levels.

“I don’t know what’s so funny about this,” his twin said, standing on Dirk’s other side as they waited in line for tickets into the park. It was one of those seasonal places that set up hayrides and like five or six different haunted houses and a couple of rides that were pretty popular throughout most of October. He'd heard of it before but this was the first time either him or Rose had been.

“You’ll get it when you’re older, trust me,” Dirk told her, a hint of amusement still evident in the teen’s voice. Rose rolled her eyes at the answer but didn’t push it. She didn’t seem that interested in this outing much at all, which was a bit of a surprise to Dave. She was always super into all creepy things, so he thought she’d be all over something like this. Of course, she might just be disappointed in the fact that so far the ‘monsters’ that wondered around while they were in line were so obviously fake. Dave could see where one of their masks opened in the back, the person’s hair peeking out, and another whose machete was so plastic it hurt.

It seemed to take forever for them to finally get to the front of the line and receive three wristbands. They were the weird paper kind that you couldn’t rip for the life of you and would be permanently stuck on your arm if you couldn’t find any scissors or a sword lying around to cut it off. The bracelet off, that is. Not your hand.

“Okay, what first?” Dirk asked, Dave looking around as he tried to see what would be the best thing to start off with.

“Not the hayride. I don’t want to stand in line for another hour,” Rose spoke up before he could say anything, but he definitely agreed with her. Somehow, the line for that seemed longer than the one to get into the place, but whatever.

They ended up choosing one of the haunted houses with the shortest line. That probably meant that it wasn’t the best one, but that meant they could work their way up. Dirk and Rose didn’t seem to react to much of anything as they made their way through. Dave swore he only flinched a few times, and that was just because his shades made it hard to see in there.

“Why didn’t Roxy come with us?” Dave asked as they exited the first haunted house and started trying to decide which one to go to next.

“She had stuff to do tonight. Sorry, you’re stuck with the boring sibling this time,” Dirk told him.

“Which one? Or do you mean the both of you?” he pressed, Rose rolling her eyes at his jab.

The next haunted house was pitch black the entire way though, he made sure to ask Rose to confirm this. That meant his reaction wasn’t distorted by his shades any, so obviously he was definitely a lot more collected throughout the whole thing. If he made sure to stay close to Rose and Dirk it was just because it was dark as shit and he didn’t want to get lost in some dumb haunted house.

It wasn’t too fun going through these without anyone actually reacting, which was kind of the point. The next one they went through had more people going in with them at once, which let them see those people react. That was hilarious. The rest of the trip was spent making fun of the people who did get scared, both Dave and Rose rather proud about being able to go straight faced through things that made people twice their age shriek in horror.

“Alright, want to give the hayride a go before we bounce?” Dirk asked, the two children looking over at the line. It was pretty late now and it’d gone down quite a bit.

“Sure, why not?” Dave said, Rose agreeing with him. The three got into line, Dave trying to hold back any signs of sleepiness starting to creep on him. It was almost midnight and he was glad they were going to leave after this, because if not he might have fallen asleep. Heh, that would probably make them consider upping the scares, putting kids to sleep here.

The hayride was definitely the best put together part of the park, or that might have just been his sleepiness getting to him. Either way, about halfway through he heard Rose laughing next to him, and when he turned his head instead of his sister he saw a clown staring a few inches from his face. He jumped, backing into Dirk with a yelp and the clown disappearing from the side of the ride.

“I didn’t see him there,” he muttered, pushing himself off of the older boy and avoiding eye contact with the both of them.

The rest of the ride went without incident, and they were dropped off at what seemed to be the start of a corn maze. Maize. Puns. Dave had forgotten that this was a part of the hayride, annoyed when he realized they would have to walk back.

“Come on, let’s get back. Bro's gonna be pissed that I kept you both out so late,” Dirk said, starting into the corn field with the few other people who’d been on the ride. They were all people either Dirk’s age or older at this time of night though, so they ended up pretty far ahead of their group rather fast. It wasn't their fault they had shorter legs.

When he heard something walking in the corn besides them, Dave figured it was a last scare and ignored it. He was tired and pretty sure they still had half of the maze left and then they had to get home. Dirk was texting mom to come pick them up, but there was still the chance that they would have to wait around for her a bit.

The thing in the corn slammed into Dirk, the phone in his hands going flying and knocking him off of the path, out of sight. Dave heard someone yell and he wasn’t sure if it was him or Rose or both. When his brain processed what was happening he could hear thrashing in the corn field, Dirk cursing loudly but it was so dark and he couldn’t see anything.

“Dirk, we want to go home,” Rose said beside him, still seeming rather calm. It was only then that Dave realized this was probably some dumb prank to scare then that Dirk set up and managed to calm down quite a bit.

“Get the fuck out of here! Both of you!” Dirk practically shrieked, startling the two of them. Dave turned to look at his twin, a strange sudden feeling that he couldn’t move from his spot. Fear was creeping inside of him but he tried to tell himself that was stupid this was just a dumb prank.

“Dirk! Let’s go,” he insisted, forcing himself to step forward and see just who it was he was fighting with. It was probably Roxy. That’s why she wasn’t here tonight, they had this whole thing set up, the jerks.

With that thought in mind, he managed to steel himself to walk up to the edge of the path, peering through the cornstalks to try to get a better look. The only thing he managed to make out was what looked like something metal spinning away before something slammed against him hard, knocking him to the ground, his shades going flying and allowing him a much clearer look at what this was.

Not Roxy! Holy fucking shit definitely not Roxy!

He was vaguely aware that he was screaming, his arms up in an attempt to shield his face from the huge as fuck fangs the thing had. He could feel something (claws?) digging into his sides as the thing pinned him to the ground, his whole body shaking in terror.

The thing was then torn off of him, and when he opened his eyes he saw Dirk was standing above him now, having apparently kicked the fucking beast away. The older boy pulled him to his feet before he could even comprehend what was happening.

Run! Fuck don’t just stand there go!” Dirk was yelling at them, but Dave couldn’t move. Dirk was all torn up, and he kept looking like he was trying to grab a sword that wasn’t there. That must have been what he’d seen go flying through the cornfield.

When he managed to turn to look at the monster, he didn’t have any other word for it. Its eyes were fucking glowing a red-orange, and it was holding it's face where Dirk had apparently managed to kick it. Its hair a tangled mess all over the place and there were fangs and claws but other than that it looked like a tall, skinny guy. Smudged paint covered his face, reminding Dave of a clown. He would have still thought it was an elaborate prank if it wasn't for the way his sides were bleeding where it had clawed at him.

Then Rose was grabbing his hand, pulling him away from the scene as she ran as fast as she could, her twin barely managing to keep up with her. They didn’t get very far before Dave’s brain seemed to start working again, pulling his hand away and stopping. That made his sister stop, turning back towards him. Before she could ask why he started explaining.

“We need to go back it’ll kill him!” he yelled, speaking a mile a minute and just now noticing the tears in her eyes. He tried not to focus on how that managed to make all of this even more terrifying. Rose didn’t cry, fuck.

“I know! But what are we supposed to do?! We’ll just die too!” she argued, and Dave found he couldn’t fight with that. Fuck he wanted to but it was true.

“But…” he replied shakily and oh fuck he was crying too now wasn’t he? The two stood frozen in their spot for a moment, staring back at where they came from, when something rushed past them. It took a moment for them to process what it’d been.

“Was that…” he trailed off, not wanting to get his hopes up in case it was just another fucking monster heading in to finish the job.

“Bro?” Rose finished for him, and Dave couldn’t help but be relieved that she had seen the same thing. That made it much more likely that it was actually their Bro.

They ended up staying where they were for a few minutes, definitely not about to head back towards the fight but too worried to leave.

After what felt like an eternity the twins heard something coming towards them. It didn’t sound like a monster, and if it was they must have injured it something good because it seemed to be coming rather slowly.

Relief flooded Dave when he saw Bro carrying Dirk on his back. A shot of fear surged through him right afterwards until he realized that the teen was still moving, despite the large gashes torn in him, one of his legs looking particularly mangled. None of that seemed all that important besides the fact that they were alive and safe. The twins ran towards the two, Dave torn between clinging to them and not wanting to hurt either of them. Even Bro looked banged up, which wasn’t something Dave had ever seen before.

“What was that!?” Rose shrieked, which yeah he’d like to know that too.

“No questions. Home. Now,” Bro said sternly, sounding pissed and the two kids just nodded, realizing right away that now definitely wasn't the best time. It wasn’t far to the car, which Dave supposed Bro put there so they wouldn’t have to walk long. How he knew they would be here he wasn’t going to question. Even with the short distance, he found himself clinging to Bro, and when he looked over he saw that Rose was holding on to his other side just as tightly.

Bro lowered Dirk into the passenger’s side while the twins scrambled into the backseat, both just wanting to get the hell out of there. No one spoke as Bro started driving them back home, and soon the adrenaline that had been coursing through Dave was wearing down, causing the pain from where the beast had attacked him.

He tried to keep it to himself until they got home and Dirk was fixed up first, but a whimper of pain made its way past his lips, drawing Bro’s attention.

“Were you hurt?” he asked, and reluctantly the child nodded.

“A little. Dirk got it off of me real quick,” he said, not wanting Bro to blame Dirk for him getting attacked.

“We’re almost home,” was all the adult said, which was true. A few minutes later they were pulling up in front of the house and Bro turned back towards them when he spoke again.

“Go inside and tell mom to get the first aid out while I bring him in, okay?” he said to the two of them, both nodding and starting out of the car almost immediately. Rose was a bit faster than him, but Dave liked to think that was due to the fact that he was hurt and all.

“Mom! First aid! Dirk and Dave are hurt!” Rose was yelling as they entered the house.

“Mostly Dirk,” Dave felt compelled to add on, not wanting to get fixed before the other boy. The woman appeared in the room almost as soon as Bro had managed to walk Dirk into the house. A first aid kit was in her hand and a look of confusion and shock crossed her face as she took in the scene. As soon as she seemed to come to her senses she ushered them all into the kitchen, forcing both him and Dirk to sit down at the table as they started treating their injuries.

Dave had tried to insist that they help Dirk first, but Mom made him let her clean his wounds, insisting that Bro working on Dirk would be enough for the moment. Dave hadn’t noticed at first that Roxy must have gotten home from wherever she was tonight. The older girl brought him and Rose out into the living room once he was cleaned and bandaged up. Only two of his cuts had needed stitches, which was awful and Bro had taken over to do that real quick.

Once the three of them were in the living room, Rose turned toward Roxy.

“What was that?” she demanded once again, their older sister looking away awkwardly at the question.

“Oh geeze. We weren’t gonna tell you guys till you were older,” she said, which didn’t answer the question at all.

“Little late for that,” Dave added in, starting to want to know what the fuck was going on now that he’d calmed down a bit more. Before Roxy could answer them they heard their mother yelling coming from the kitchen.

“The ringmaster?! Oh my god!” They were able to make out quite clearly, Roxy flinching a bit at the sound.

“Oh damn, Dirk is in so much fucking trouble,” she muttered, and yeah that seemed pretty apparent.

“What’s the ringmaster? What’s going on?” Rose continued to ask, Roxy groaning at the questions.

“Okay, I’m not gonna be the one to do this, hell no. Believe me you’d rather have Bro or Mom explain all this, just wait until Dirk is fixed up and chewed out and they’ll tell you, okay?” she told them, and reluctantly the two children relented.

They did indeed have to wait for Dirk to both get patched up and chewed out. This ended up making them wait at least another hour, since they waited until they had treated all of his wounds before rounding on him and god Dave was so tired. He hadn’t been when being attacked but now he was exhausted and it was taking everything he had to stay awake.

He tried to focus on listening into Dirk getting yelled at, a lot of ‘You all could have been killed!’ and ‘What were you even thinking having them out so late!’ and ‘Don’t ever scare us like that again!’ It was kind of weird how much they were acting like parents right now, but he supposed if any situation called for it, it was nearly getting killed by a demon clown monster.

Thankfully, they finally seemed to finish yelling at Dirk, telling him to go up to his room and rest before heading into the living room where they all were.

“They wanna know what’s going on,” Roxy said as they came into the room. Mom sighed softly, and Bro just nodded.

“Of course they do,” he said, and Dave tried to focus his mind on what they were going to tell them, because he really wanted to know what was happening here.

It was then that the two adults explained everything about spirits and what they actually did for a living. They talked about just how dangerous it was and that they’d dealt with the spirit that had attacked them tonight before. It was a real fucking lot to take in at once, especially when his brain wasn’t quite working at full capacity.

Once they were finally done explaining, Rose piped up from next to him.

“I want to join,” she said simply, and Dave felt his head snap towards her in surprise. Why the fuck would she want to do that? After what just happened? To his surprise, Bro’s answer wasn’t an outright no either.

“You’ll have to wait until you’re a bit older kiddo, but the enthusiasm is appreciated,” he said.

They sent them up to bed after that, mom telling him that they would have to look at his stitches again tomorrow and clean out his wounds in the morning again. He wasn’t looking forward to that, but he didn’t want to get an infection or something either.

Dave fell asleep quickly that night, although the next morning nightmares from what had happened woke him. He didn’t tell anyone about that, but he was pretty sure that they could all tell that all of that had freaked him out. Which he thought was a totally normal reaction for a nine year old who thought he was going to die, then thinking his brother was going to die to finding out the rest of his family did stuff like this on a regular basis.

Of course Rose had to be perfectly fine and want to know as much about this whole ‘business’ as she could. Lousy dumb creepy stuff loving sister.

They ended up grounding Dirk for three months, which apparently included time taken off this sentence for protecting him and Rose. They also didn’t get him a new phone until after he was ungrounded, since his old one had been lost in that field, along with Dave’s shades. Thankfully he didn’t have to wait that long to get a replacement for them, Mom taking him out and letting him get a pair a few days later.

It had taken him a long time to come around to the idea of joining the ‘family business’. He wasn’t even sure what had made him change his mind, but here he was six years later irritated about being kept out of this shit.

He ended up ordering a pizza like Sollux had suggested. He left it on the counter figuring Dirk and Sollux could have some when they got back, because he wasn’t going to eat a whole god damn pizza. He probably could, but he wasn't going to.

He was a bit surprised when Dirk got back before Sollux did, but then again the other guy could definitely give some of them a run for their money when it came to being obsessive.

“Sup,” Dirk said as he entered the apartment, walking over and grabbing a slice of the now cold pizza without asking. He didn’t bother heating it up before taking a bite.

“Not much. Remember that time you kicked the Ringmaster in the face?” Dave asked, not looking up from his laptop. He’d brought it out with him once he got tired of staring at his small phone screen.

“I would have been slaughtered immediately if I let him eat your god damn soul yeah I remember,” Dirk answered, grabbing a soda out of the fridge.

“The fact that that’s a thing that happened is pretty hilarious,” Dave said, because it really was. He can’t believe that Dirk thought it would have worked, and even more so that is did.

“When you get past the nearly dying part yeah,” his brother said in between bites of pizza. “So, which one was worse?” Dirk asked after a moment. Dave shrugged, not having come to a conclusion on that question yet.

“Eh, I mean I would have died both times if it wasn’t for Bro and/or Redglare being a confusing fuck so it’s pretty even,” he said.

“No, I would have died, you and Rose got to run away,” Dirk argued.

“And you don’t think he couldn’t have come and finished a couple of nine year olds off once he was done with you?” Dave asked. Dirk just shrugged, not seeming too concerned with this hypothetical.

“The point is it isn’t guaranteed that you would have died if Bro hadn’t shown up, although I wouldn’t say that would make this new attack automatically worse. The fact that it was the ringmaster might just trump all else,” Dirk said, Dave nodding in agreement.

God, his life was pretty fucked up. He’d pretty much accepted that as a fact by this point, but it was god damn obvious whenever he took the time to look back on everything that had happened.

He was used to it, but that didn’t make it any less strange.

Chapter Text

When Sollux got back to the apartment he headed straight for the pizza box, not bothering to say a word to the two brothers on the couch.

“Redglare or the Ringmaster?” Dave asked the other boy, mostly just wanting to see what he would say.

“Redglare,” Sollux answered without hesitation. He took a bite of the pizza before continuing. “So what’s the context?” he asks after swallowing the food.

“Who’d you rather go up against in a fight,” Dave clarified, Sollux nodding at the answer.

“Yeah, still Redglare,” he said. That didn’t surprise Dave all that much, since he was starting to lean that way too. He would still rather not go anywhere near either spirit again in his life, but if he had to choose, at least there was a chance that Redglare would just want to mess with him psychologically.

“We were talking about the time Dirk got us get attacked by the Ringmaster,” Dave told him. Sollux seemed to think for a moment before nodding.

“Oh yeah, fuck I forgot about that. God damn you Striders have shitty luck,” he said, and Dave couldn’t help but agree.

“Surviving two attacks by high level spirits when you’re pretty much defenseless seems pretty damn lucky to me,” Dirk spoke up from the other end of the couch.

“Intervention from that psycho you two call Bro doesn’t count as being defenseless,” Sollux said, Dirk shrugging at the comment. Sollux seemed to watch the older boy for another moment until Dave spoke up again. He wasn’t sure what that look was about, but fuck he was not going to question it. Sollux and Dirk were both weird as fuck.

“So, what’s going on with all this? Can I go back tomorrow or am I still under house arrest? Wouldn’t I be safer at the base with a fuck ton of defenses than in this shitty apartment?” he asked. Sollux just shrugged, moving to grab another slice of pizza and put it in the microwave.

“They’re trying to get a more constant trace on Redglare for start. Also I think you’re moving,” he told Dave while the pizza heated up.

“If you want to come to the base tomorrow I’ll take you, but you’ll have to wake up in time,” Dirk added on. Dave almost considered staying here again tomorrow with how early that would have to be. Reluctantly he decided he could take a nap on the couch once he got there until a more human time of day.

“Fine, I’ll set an alarm,” he said, not bothering to ask what time he’d have to set it for. Dirk didn’t leave any later than 8 in the morning, so he figured he'd be safe if he set for about 6:30am. Dirk could be an asshole but he’d at least wait until then if he knew Dave wanted to come too.

Waking up at 6:30am was a lot fucking harder than he thought it would be. He stayed under the covers until Dirk started knocking on his door at around 7:15. He groaned, pushing himself off of the bed. He cursed loudly when he hit the floor, his arm taking the brunt of the force and sending shocks of pain from his injury outward.

“Fuck! I’m up! Hold your goddamn horses and let me get dressed. Carry all of the shitty mini mechanical horses in your arms like they’re your weird four legged babies, all neighing and bucking because you don’t hold horses in your arms man, that’s not something they’re made for. Fuck, you’re gonna break their legs or something if you’re not careful about the horses, and then we gotta put them down, I know you don’t want that. Equius would start sobbing man, no one wants that,” he rambled as he moved about the room getting ready. His voice got quieter and quieter until he was mumbling near incoherently to himself. Dirk never bothered answering him.

When he made his way into the living room Dirk was already dressed and ready to go, which yeah no surprise there. God, as the years went on he was more and more convinced that Dirk just didn’t need sleep. Dude wasn’t fucking human.

The two were silent as Dirk drove them to the base. This was mainly because Dave had used up all his incomprehensible morning babble on ranting about horses to himself.

Walking into the base, he collapsed face first into the couch, not bothering to move for several minutes. It was only once it started getting difficult to breath did he shift onto his back. He was still intent on what he’d decided on earlier and taking a nap for a few more hours. Dirk hadn’t looked twice at him, just continued back to his office. This wasn't the first time Dave had done something of this sort.

It was around eleven when Dave woke up enough to sit up and start having coherent thoughts. He was texting Rose to bring him some breakfast on her way in when Aradia walked into the base.

“Oh! Hey Dave, how are you feeling?” she asked, walking over to him and sitting on the back of the couch.

“Sup. Eh, same old same old, arms nearly got torn off so they’re a little sore but other than that I’m all good,” he said, Aradia frowning at him.

“You should try to get some more rest. Redglare is no joking matter,” She told him. Dave had to resist the urge to roll his eyes since he knew she was just trying to help.

“Yeah don’t worry, I’ve been lectured on that enough. I’m feeling fine though, and plus it’s probably safer here surrounded by a bunch of void-y shields and attack happy hunters than alone in Sollux’s apartment,” he said, the girl nodding after a moment.

“Yes, I suppose that’s true,” she said, seeming to think what he’d said over. “Well, I’m glad you’re feeling well,” she added on after a moment.

“Thanks. So, what’s the deal here? Dirk and Sollux aren’t really the best sources of information on this shit. I mean, it’s Redglare. We can’t just like, attack,” Dave said. If it was that easy they would have attempted to take the spirit out ages ago. Aradia was nodding in agreement with him.

“That’s true, and we’re trying to keep an eye on her for now. I’m pretty sure your mother and Bro are looking for a new place for you all to stay, just in case your home really was compromised,” she told him. It was pretty much the same as what Dirk and Sollux had told him, and he supposed that was all they came up with.

Dave was about to say that really was all they could do for now when Aradia sighed heavily.

“Honestly Dave, I’m getting a bit tired of not being able to do anything against them. If we were to all attack at once I’m sure we would be strong enough to defeat even Redglare or the Spider,” she said, an exasperated tone to her voice. Dave found himself shaking his head at that, because wow bad idea.

“Look now, I get feeling like we’re not doing much but trust me that wouldn’t work. Maybe against like, Sugar or Casanova but not those two,” he said, hoping she’d let this go. The truth was that he kind of thought the same thing at times. He told himself that Bro and everyone else knew what they were doing though and not letting huge fucking threats go without looking at all available options.

“Have we ever tried it?” she pressed, exactly like Dave had been hoping she wouldn’t.

“Well no, but we don’t need to. I mean shit, like, Trickster can get away from three of us no problem, and he ain’t shit compared to like, Sugar, and then it’s just this big exponential scale of crazy. I don’t even know if we realize how fucking powerful those three are. I mean like, the big three. The scary fuck trio of to hell with that, tied for number one in the ‘fuck no’ category. Two of which I’ve been attacked by on totally separate occasions that had nothing to do with work,” Dave rambled.

“Feel like going for the full set?” Aradia asked jokingly, Dave shaking his head without a second thought.

“Fuck Spiderbitch. I would pay money to see a three times showdown between her, Redglare and Ringmaster though. It’d be horrifying and deadly and probably destroy the city but I want to know who’d come out on top now,” he said. Aradia nodded in agreement, a small smile on her face again, which Dave was thankful for. He was hoping to distract her from that earlier line of thought. Even if they did decide to all attack, they’d have to wait for both him and Eridan to heal up first and he still thought it was a bad idea at that.

“That would certainly be a sight to see,” she said. The smile on her face fell a bit and Dave realized he hadn’t done as good a job at distracting her as he’d hoped.

“If that is the case though, what are we supposed to do about them?” Aradia asked him, and Dave found himself shrugging as he answered.

“Wait, try to make more cool magic shit until we’re strong enough to take them down,” he said. It was all he could think of, and he figured with all the spooky shit they were always working on they’d manage it eventually. Aradia sighed before conceding.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said. Before either of them could say anything else Rose and Feferi walked into the base, Rose tossing a McDonalds bag at Dave.

“Fuck yeah,” he said happily, turning his attention to the food. He hadn’t quite realized how hungry he was until the smell hit him.

“How are you feeling Dave? Do you need me to look at your stitches?” Feferi asked him, and Dave shook his head, waiting until he swallowed the large bite of the burger in his hands before speaking.

“I’m good, thanks though,” he told her.

“Did you change them yesterday or yet today?” she asked, and Dave shrugged as he took another bite.

“I don’t know probably,” he mumbled through the food. The real answer was no. He hadn’t, but eh that shit was annoying he was totally fine and on top of it.

“I’ll go grab my first aid kit, as soon as you’re done eating I’m changing them,” she said as she started out of the room. Okay he really should have expected that, and he kind of did. Aradia pushed herself off of the back of the couch, turning back towards Dave afterwards.

“I’m going to head back to my office, thanks for talking Dave,” she said, the boy nodding and giving a slight wave as she started away. Rose moved to sit down next to him, stealing one of his fries.

“What were you two talking about?” she asked. Dave tried to swat her hand away as she went to grab another one, ultimately failing and losing another delicious greasy morsel.

“Not much, just why ganging up on Redglare and stuff wouldn’t work,” he said, Rose nodding in agreement.

“I must admit it’s a tempting option, but if we ever do it’d probably be best to wait a few years until we’ve all had quite a bit more training under our belts,” she said. Dave couldn't stop himself from rolling his eyes at the comment.

“And by 'we all' you mean me,” he said.

“You, Nepeta and I’m not leaving myself out of this either. Aradia herself has only been with us a few months longer than I have as well. She’s not exactly a hardened warrior either,” she told him, and Dave relaxed a bit than that. As long as he wasn’t being singled out he was more okay with it, because it wasn’t like it was wrong. He’d actually forgotten that Nepeta had joined around the same time as he had.

“Do you think we’d actually be able to take them down in a few years?” he asked, having pretty much given up at this point on protecting his fries.

“With some more advances in our weapons as well, perhaps. It’s something to work for, at least,” she said, and yeah he could agree with that.

“So, what are you planning to do today?” Rose asked, Feferi coming back into the room at that moment.

“Sit around. Be bored here instead of in Sollux’s nasty apartment,” he told her. Rose moved out of the way to allow Feferi to sit down, Dave not protesting when she demanded his arm.

“Riveting. Maybe if you were interested in more than just fighting you could have something to do while incapacitated. Even Eridan helps out with the spiritual side of this when he gets the chance,” Rose said, Dave rolling his eyes and trying to focus on his sister while Feferi went about messing with his arm.

“Eridan is a wannabe wizard and that has nothing to do with anything. I can guarantee you that if I try any of that shit I will be cursed in .2 seconds of starting my first satanic chant. Bones and flesh will heal but what am I supposed to do if I end up possessed by one of these things Rose? Do you really want your brother to end up a monster? I mean the brother who isn’t one already here, just to be clear,” Now Rose was the one rolling her eyes, Feferi giggling next to him.

“That’s not how it works Dave,” she said, rewrapping his cuts before moving onto the other arm.

“Too risky, and that’s all there needs to be said on the matter,” he told them both.

“Well then, I thought I’d at least offer,” Rose said. It wasn’t that Dave didn’t appreciate the suggestion, but just no he wasn’t messing with that shit. He was 100% certain that something horrible would happen the first chance it got.

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about your poor brother’s slowly debilitating psyche as he stares at the walls and contemplates trees,” he joked. Feferi finished with his arm then, closing her first aid kit and standing up.

“You need to keep up with this if you want to stop being bored and get back out on missions sooner Dave,” she chided before turning towards Rose. “We should go start on our scary spooky magics,” she said, laughing afterwards, his sister nodding in agreement.

“We most certainly should. The broodfestered tongues won’t wait much longer,” Rose answered. Dave rolled his eyes at the two and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“When you’re all possessed by forces beyond our comprehension you won’t be laughing,” he said, the girls giggling some more before leaving the room.

The rest of the day went pretty much exactly as he expected. He spent another hour or so in the commons room until he got bored and went around to see what anyone else was doing. Dirk was imputing information from the last few reports, and mostly ignored his attempts to find something interesting to do. He stayed away from Rose and Feferi because there was a 100% chance that they would try some magic shit to fuck with him after this morning.

He ended up spending quite a bit of time complaining and lazing around with Eridan, actually. They weren’t letting help with the tracking of Redglare or anything right now, since it was deemed too important for him to potentially screw up. The dude could be downright insufferable at times, but at other times he could be alright. It was kind of a flip of the coin with the guy.

It was almost sundown now and Dave found himself alone in the commons room again. He was considering asking if he was allowed to go out and grab sometime to eat or if that was out of the question. If that was the case, one of them needed to get him some food because he was getting hungry. He was about to get up when Aradia came out of her office.

“Oh, you’re still out here?” she asked.

“I swear I have not spent the whole day on this couch. I got up. I interacted with people. Eridan and I had a great discussion on being left out. I am a productive member of society,” he insisted. Aradia laughed and nodded.

“I believe you, don’t worry,” she said, sticking her hands in her jacket pockets. There was something odd about the way she was holding herself, but Dave couldn't put his finger on it.

“So, are you heading somewhere?” he asked, Aradia nodding.

“I think I’m going to head home for the day. I have a few things I need to catch up on,” she told him, hand messing with whatever was in her pocket. Dave felt the urge to frown, because for some reason something about Aradia felt off, but he pushed it down. If anything, she was probably just trying to think of a way to convince them that attacking would be a good idea.

“Alright, stay safe. Don’t help little blind girls looking for dogs,” he said instead, Aradia offering him another smile and nodding.

“I won’t, don’t worry,” she said before turning and leaving the building. Dave hesitated a moment before deciding to let it go, getting up to go bug someone about food. As he thought he wasn’t allowed to leave by himself, and Nepeta agreed to run out and grab them both something. The two were eating in the common room when Mom came in.

“Heeey kids, have either of you seen Aradia anywhere?” the woman asked. Nepeta shook her head at the same time Dave nodded.

“She left a little while ago. Said she had stuff to take care of,” he explained, wondering what was up. Mom and Bro didn’t usually ask questions. They just knew. She frowned a bit at his response, nodding and starting towards the offices.

“Alright, thanks dearie,” she said as she left. Nepeta turned to him once they were alone again.

“Was that really all she said?” she asked, and Dave nodded.

“Yeah, I mean she was acting a little weird. I couldn’t put my figure on what it was though,” he explained, Nepeta frowning as she seemed to think the situation over.

“Aradia’s been acting pawfully odd since we found out you were attacked,” she said, perking Dave’s interest.

“She has? That’s news to me,” he said, the girl nodding.

“I think she’s afuraid of losing another friend to spirits,” Nepeta told him in a whisper. He wasn’t sure why she didn’t say it in a normal voice, but the girl could be pretty silly at times. Hell, she used puns in pretty much every sentence if that wasn’t enough.

Dave did find himself frowning at what she’d said though. He’d forgotten about that. Aradia had only worked with them for about two years now too, so this was probably the biggest scare she’d been around for.

“Oh yeah, that was why she joined wasn’t it?” he asked, not sure what else to say.

“Yes, I believe it was Spider,” she said, and that’s what Dave remembered it being as well. He hadn’t been a hunter yet at that point, but he’d heard all about it from Roxy. Aradia had been looking into the death of her friend for a while and managed to come across them and found out what had really happened to him. She immediately wanted to join for revenge, and it turned out she was a freaking natural at magic spooky shit.

Well, that explained why she was starting to get fed up with them not targeting any of the bigger threats. If he’d been working on avenging the death of a friend for two years he’d be getting a little frustrated too.

Before he could say anything else Mom came running back into the room, her face pale. The two turned towards her in an instant, surprised by the sudden entrance.

“Dave, Nepeta, no one is to leave the base. Tell everyone. Bro and I are going out for the moment,” she said, her voice clear, absent of any of the normal slurring. Dave felt a chill run down his spine at that, officially having no idea what was going on anymore. When he stood up, Nepeta was barely a step behind him.

“What’s going on? We under attack or some shit?” he asked, Mom shaking her head as she started towards the door.

“No, no it’s fine dear. Let everyone know to stay inside until we get back,” she said, shutting the door behind her before either of them could say another word. Dave and Nepeta found themselves staring at each other for a moment, trying to let it all set in.

“I’ll take the doors on the right, you take left?” Dave said once he found himself able to form words again. Nepeta nodded, the two starting towards the office hallway. The first door was Sollux’s, and Dave knocked, opening it before the boy had a chance to answer. He could hear Nepeta doing pretty much the same on the other side of the hallway.

“The fuck DV?” Sollux asked, which was pretty called for considering Dave didn’t bug him too much.

“No one’s allowed to leave until Bro and Mom get back. I think something’s happening with Aradia,” he said, Sollux instantly focusing on him at that, any annoyance from Dave barging in gone.

“AA’s in trouble?” he asked, Dave shrugging.

“I have no fucking clue man, but Mom said no one leaves till they get back so yeah,” he said, turning to go tell the next person. The next person turned out to be Dirk, and he went in without knocking on this one because even if he was low-key freaking out here he could still think enough to want to bother the older boy a bit.

“Mom said no one leaves the base until she and Bro get back. Something’s happening and I think Aradia might be in trouble,” he explained, leaving the room again before Dirk had time to properly process what he’d said.

Dave was knocking on Roxy’s door when Dirk appeared behind him.

“What’s going on?” he asked, Dave shrugging in an exaggerated manner.

“I have no god damn idea man. I was eating with Nepeta when Mom bursts in asking where Aradia is and saying to tell everyone not to leave until she and Bro get back,” he explained, opening the office door to repeat this once again.

“What’s up guys?” Roxy asked, looking up from some book.

“Shit’s going down. No one’s allowed out,” Dirk said before Dave had a chance to. Roxy frowned at them, pushing the book aside to get out of her chair.

“What shit?” she asked. This time Dave made sure to speak up before Dirk could.

“We’re not sure. Mom just sprung this on us, best guess is something with Aradia,” he told her. Roxy nodded, starting out into the hallway with them.

“I’ll go check her office to see if there’s some sort of clue,” she said, Dave nodding in agreement. That must have been what Mom had done, and it seemed to find something worthy of truly freaking the fuck out over.

When Dave turned to see if there was anyone else he needed to grab he saw that everyone was out in the hallway now. They were all looking varying degrees of confused and worried. He hadn’t realized that pretty much everyone had been working today, especially since they hadn’t had any ground missions.

“Does anyone know what the fuck’s going on? Where’s AA?” Sollux was asking, sounding a bit panicked under his normal irritation. It was then that Dave remembered that he and Aradia were actually pretty close.

“We don't know. She left and Mrs. Lalonde said not to leave,” Nepeta explained, Dave nodding and moving to back the girl up.

“She was asking about Aradia and I saw her leaving a little while ago. Mom went into her office and when she came out she just told us to tell everyone that we weren’t allowed to leave until they got back and ran off,” Dave elaborated. Sollux was glaring at him and seemed about to snap at him when Rose spoke up.

“I’m sure if we all just stay calm things will be fine. They know what they’re doing,” she said. Everyone started muttering to themselves and each other but no one spoke up enough to argue.

“Okay, soooo,” Roxy said as she came back into the hallway. Dave had forgotten that she’d got to check Aradia’s room. “I think I know where Aradia went off to,” she continued.

“Well?” Eridan chimed up.

“Alright, this is totally just like, a guess here, but I think, like, just maybe, she went after the Spider,” Roxy said.

“The fuck!?” Sollux screeched, starting towards the front door. Before he could get halfway through the commons room Dirk moved in front of him, blocking his path.

“Move it Strider,” the shorter boy demanded, Dirk not budging from his spot.

“You heard the kids, no one leaves until the bosses get back,” he said, Sollux almost snarling at him. Dirk pretty much ignored him to address Dave instead.

“How long ago did Aradia leave?” he asked, the younger boy shrugging and trying to appear calm and that this wasn't kind of freaking him out.

“Maybe like a half hour, forty five minutes ago? I’m sure they’ll be able to catch up with her before she does anything stupid,” Dave said, severely hoping that was the case. He was starting to think that he should have told someone right away that Aradia was acting weird, but he had no idea that had been an actual thing he needed to be worried about.

“They better,” Sollux snapped, walking over to the couch and sitting down in a huff. He pulled out his phone and started typing away, seeming to block everyone else out at this point. If Dave had to guess he'd bet he was trying to get in contact with Aradia. Dirk turned to focus on everyone else, a seriousness to him that reminded Dave way too much of Bro.

“Everyone can go back to how they were. There’s nothing we can do until they get back,” he told the group. A few of them nodded and slowly shuffled off, most likely to gossip about all of this until they were certain on what was going on. Dave stayed in the commons room, figuring that was what he’d been doing beforehand. He noticed Rose and Roxy seemed intent on staying as well, and Dirk wasn’t moving from his spot by the door. Sollux was obviously not leaving, and Feferi stayed as well, keeping by the two other girls.

The next twenty minutes consisted of awkward silence and Dave desperately wanted something to happen so that they weren’t just sitting there waiting.

If they’d managed to catch up with Aradia, it shouldn’t be taking them this long to get back. He didn't want to think about what would happen if they didn't reach her though.

The door slammed into Dirk when it finally did open, causing everyone to jump from where they were and turn towards the ruckus. Dave was pretty sure that when he turned he saw something speed by in a blur, figuring it was Bro but it didn’t look quite right for that, too dark.

Mom was coming through the door frame now, seeming intent to follow what had run in when everyone in the main room pretty much pounced on her.

“Where’s AA?” Sollux asked immediately, the woman turning towards him. She seemed startled for a split second, before she managed to form her thoughts into words.

“We just brought her to the back. Feferi, Roxy we could use your help. Everyone else should go home for the night,” his mother said, Sollux shaking his head.

“Fuck that. I’m not leaving until I see AA,” he declared. The woman sighed, nodding at him.

“Alright, but that might be a while. Dirk, please let everyone else know they’re free to leave and take Rose and Dave home,” she said.

“Can do everything but take them home,” the older boy said. A look of realization seemed to fall over their mother’s face. Before she could say anything Feferi cut in.

“It’s alright, you three stay at my house tonight, okay? Since Sollux is going to spend the night here and everything. Rose, the keys are in the little fish sculpture on the porch,” she said, Mom sighing in relief.

“Thank you Feferi, dear,” she said. “We need to get back there,” she added on, starting back towards the office that belonged to Bro. Feferi and Roxy followed the older woman without another word, leaving everyone else in confusion after that whirlwind of non-information and vague worry.

“Alright, go grab your shit, we’re leaving once I tell everyone they can go home,” Dirk told them, already starting back towards the office. Rose started back towards her own office to get her things. Dave hadn’t brought anything with him besides his phone so he waited in the main room with Sollux. The other boy had taken to sitting back on the couch, but Dave figured they were leaving in a few moments and remained standing. He wondered if they were going to stop by Sollux's place to grab their things. He wasn’t sure if he even wanted to ask though.

It wasn’t long before the two got back and they headed out to the car, driving away in silence. From the looks of it, they weren’t heading back to Sollux’s. Oh well, he could deal for one night.

There was a nasty feeling in the pit of his gut, and he didn’t know what to do about it. Way too much shit seemed to be going wrong at once and if it kept up like this he wasn’t sure where his life was heading.

Wherever that was, Dave did not want to find out.

---

The next few days went much better than Karkat would have expected. He’d spent more time than he would have liked resting, but he was starting to feel less exhausted all of the time. He wasn’t exactly lively, but fuck, he was pretty sure he wasn’t capable of that when he was actually living. The main point being that he didn’t feel like he was on a constant verge of passing out anymore.

John had also been kind enough to keep him the fuck away from most other spirits, having just met up with Jade a few times, and Karkat could deal with that. Jade didn’t seem like too bad of a person or too insane, thankfully. She didn't tend to stick around for too long either, which helped. He could only deal with so many people for so long.

It was night again now, and the two spirits were in the park where John had pushed him out of the tree. If there was something Karkat had noticed it was that John did not like to stay in one place for too long, so they ended up moving around a lot at night. Karkat wasn’t sure if it was just him being antsy, or if it was to keep hunters from tracking them too easily.

“Joooooooohn!” a voice called, startling Karkat. He saw that John had jumped at the sound too, turning towards where the voice came from.

Karkat turned to look where he was facing, seeing a girl standing a few feet away from them. She had light blonde hair with several bright blue stripes running through it, a darker blue jacket, jeans and red shoes. John’s face lit up in a smile when he saw her.

“Vriska!” he yelled in excitement, disappearing from his spot and reappearing closer to the girl. Karkat felt like his stomach was dropping out from under him at the name, having heard quite a bit about this Vriska person by now. John seemed to trust her, but he also admitted to her being fucking insane.

“Finally! Gosh, if I didn’t know any better I would think you’ve been avoiding me,” she said, John quickly shaking his head at that.

“What! No way I’ve just been busy. It has been way too long though, how’ve you been?” he asked, the Vriska girl’s face splitting into a large smile. Karkat didn’t dare move from his spot, not wanting to draw any attention to himself if there was no need to. He did not trust this Vriska at all and he was hoping that she wouldn’t stick around for very long.

“Great! I’ve been soooooooo great John, you have no idea! You’ll never guess what I found. Guess!” she demanded of him, John laughing a bit at her enthusiasm.

“Hm, I don’t know. A new Nic Cage poster?” John guessed, Vriska rolling her eyes at him.

“No! Way cooler than that!” she told him.

“I think a Nic Cage poster is pretty cool so I don’t know,” the other boy answered and yeah these were the kinds of things that still did not sit well in his head. He was well aware of the fact that John had been killing people for ten years now and that he was currently speaking to a century old hell spawn, and they were joking about shitty posters. It was really fucking unsettling.

“I guess they are pretty cool but that’s not the point! Remember how I lost one of my dice a little while ago?” she asked, John nodding slowly.

“Yeah kind of, but wasn’t that like, two years ago?” he asked back. Vriska frowned as she seemed to think this over.

“Really? Only that? Seemed longer to me, but whatever,” she said. “The point is that I found it!” She continued happily, pulling a small blue object out of what looked like nowhere and kissing it, twirling in a circle as she did so. Karkat assumed that this was the die she’d been talking about, but it looked weirdly shaped to him. John was laughing at the girl’s theatrics.

“That’s awesome! I remember now you were super upset when you couldn’t find it,” he said, Vriska turning her attention away from the die and back to John again.

“You have no idea how hard it was John. I knew it was out there somewhere and meanwhile my pretty eight theme was ruined!” she told him.

“I’m so sorry you had to endure such pain,” John said, a clear sarcastic tone to his voice. Before Vriska was able to chide him Karkat saw a huge smile split across John’s face and it sent a chill through him.

“But hey! Let me show you what I found!” he exclaimed, grabbing the girl’s wrist and starting to pull her over to where Karkat stood. Oh no, oh fuck no he was not ready for this shit. For one thing Vriska was one of the fucking ancient ghosts and without even meeting her he knew she was hellbent out of her shitty mind. It was too late though. They were in front of him before he could think of a way to get away, and Vriska was frowning as she looked him over.

“Booooooooring! Mine’s way better,” she said, turning away and not seeming to what to have anything else to do with him, thank fuck. John was pouting and crossing his arms, however.

“What no way! Karkat’s totally cool! You haven’t even given him a chance!” he whined, Vriska rolling her eyes dramatically at him. It unnerved Karkat how normal she looked, she could pass for a living person with no problem. At least Terezi fucking looked the way she acted, which was god damn creepy and pretty fucked up.

“Please, I don’t need to see anything else to know he’s so lame. What are you even doing hanging out with someone like this? Haven’t I taught you that you’re better than this?” she was asking John, who huffed at her. Karkat couldn't even find it in himself to be offended, he just didn't want to have to deal with her.

“I’m not better than anyone,” John insisted, Vriska smacking him upside the head.

“I will not have you down talking yourself understood? That kind of talk is for lame people who do not have your natural talents. You have always had an edge on these dumb wannabes, or else I wouldn’t have helped you,” she told him, a very certain tone to her voice. John was rolling his eyes but a small smile was on his face now. Karkat was hoping if he didn’t move or say anything they’d forget about him.

“Okay maybe but it’s not that big of a deal and I still like to hang around people even if they aren’t as strong, and besides like I said, Karkat is cool! I’m training him like you did me!” he explained, excitement back in his voice.

“John, it’s really sweet that you want to be like me and all,” she started, John making a little noise of protest that she ignored, “and I guess if we’re going by how much weaker you were than me at the start, someone like that for you is probably around the right ballpark,” she finished. Karkat wasn’t even upset at being called weak, fuck he knew it was true, as long as she wasn’t trying to kill him or some shit he was fine.

“Bluh bluh whatever. Hey Karkat, you haven’t said anything yet, you okay?” John turned to ask him, and he would have very much liked to tell him that no, he was not okay and would like to get away from this psycho bitch as soon as possible, but he was also aware that that might not go over well.

“I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” he said, aware that his voice was a bit stiff and he was actively trying to seem like he wasn’t staring at Vriska.

“Alright, if you say so,” he said, turning back to the girl. Karkat couldn’t help but find that a little odd, since John didn’t usually let things go so easily. Of course, this spirit obviously demanded a lot of attention. It was kind of hard for him to figure out exactly what the two’s relationship was because of this. John had mentioned to Terezi that they were just friends but you never know.

“Oh yeah, I meant to ask you before I got distracted with showing you how awesome Karkat is, where did you find your weird dice. Die. Just the one,” John said. A smile broke out on Vriska’s face as she began to explain.

“The one who took it brought it right back to me, like a total immmmmmmmbicle!” she said, John’s smile turning into a look of confusion.

“It got stolen? You never mentioned that. I thought you just lost it because your place is so messy,” he said, Vriska sighing and nodding. Karkat had sort of expected her to be offended by that last comment, but either she hadn’t registered it or it didn’t bother her.

“Yeah, by some dumb hunter, but she came back and tried to fight me all alone! It was so pathetic John, I almost felt bad for her! I was still going to kill her though, but then those weird ones had to show up,” she explained further. John seemed to completely understand what she was talking about, but Karkat was fucking lost here.

“Weird ones?” he found himself asking, his desire to get clarification a bit stronger than the desire to stay unnoticed. John nodded and turned towards him.

“You haven’t met them yet, don’t worry about it,” he said. Karkat found that whenever someone told him not to worry about a thing, he immediately began to worry about the thing.

“How are they weird, exactly? We’re talking about hunters right?” he asked, John nodding. Before the boy could start explaining though Vriska groaned and began speaking instead.

“They’re just weird okay? You ask too many questions,” she complained, Karkat frowning in irritation.

“Okay fuck you. I’ve said three shitty sentences tops since you got here, I think I can ask a single god damn question,” he snapped. Maybe it was the way she looked and acted like a normal person that was making him a bit less hesitant to speak up, or maybe she was just pissing him off enough. It was probably the second thing if he was truthful with himself. Karkat was self-aware enough to realize he would pretty much go up against anybody if they got him to a certain anger point, even if the odds were 100% in the other person’s favor.

“Fuck you! I’m trying to catch up with my dear friend John and no one asked you to be here,” she argued back. Any logical fear Karkat might have had earlier was out the window, but before he could continue to fight John cut in.

“No, no! Stop you two, no fighting. Vriska, I want him to be here, okay? We can still catch up and Karkat can talk if he wants to,” he said, causing the girl to pout, although it didn’t seem like she was going to argue with him. Hesitantly Karkat decided to speak up again.

“Well, how are these hunters weird?” he asked, still rather concerned with that fact. He was already worried about regular hunters, the idea that there were some out there that confused even these crazy dangerous people was pretty fucking unsettling.

“Hmm, it’s kind of hard to explain thinking about it. They’re older and stronger than the normal ones we usually run into. You definitely wouldn’t want to mess with them,” John told him. Karkat supposed he’d take that for now, since it didn’t sound like it’d do him much good to know any specifics if he ran into them anyway. If they were stronger than the ones who could already pretty easily kill him, there was no way he stood a chance if he got caught by them, no matter what he knew.

“Anyway! Those two showed up and took her before I managed to kill her completely, which was annoying, but whatever. I doubt she’ll live even with their help,” Vriska cut in again, finishing up her story. Karkat was very fucking disturbed by how proud she sounded when speaking. It reminded him of the fact that he’d been afraid of meeting this spirit for a god damn reason.

“That’s probably good,” John said, although to Karkat's thanks he didn’t sound as happy as he normally did. Karkat wasn’t sure how well he would be able to take gleefully talking about killing people. It was something he had to live with now yeah, but he refused to be happy about it.

“It’s great John! Honestly, I’d just like to get that whole incident behind me and forget it, so knocking out little miss revenge is definitely a step in that direction!” she insisted, and Karkat found that they were fast approaching topics he did not want to hear about. He had no idea what this topic was, but anything labeled ‘incidents’ that people wanted to leave in that past he was all for letting them do just that. John was sighing at the girl before he spoke.

“Well, you probably shouldn’t have killed her friend in the first place, but we’ve been over this so putting it behind us is a good idea,” he said, Vriska nodding sharply in agreement.

“See John? You get it,” she said, causing the other boy to smile again.

“So what are you doing now? Karkat and I weren’t up to much, you should stay and hang out with us,” John said. Vriska frowned as she gave another quick glance towards Karkat. Well, he sure felt wanted.

“Erm, sure why not,” she said, and Karkat sighed loudly.

“I’m going to head back to the construction site,” he said, already starting towards the street. John twisted towards him in surprise and before Karkat was able to get three steps away the other spirit appeared in front of him.

“What no! You should stay Karkat!” John insisted. The other spirit rolled his eyes and stepped around him.

“No, you stay here and hang out with your freaky girlfriend. I’ll see you later,” he said, John making a strange groan that was probably supposed to be an objection to his accusation.

“Whoa no! It’s not like that dude!” he told him and Karkat was sure he was about to appear in his path again when Vriska spoke up.

“John, if he wants to be a total lame-o and leave then let him! We have a lot of catching up to do!” she said, and Karkat found himself nodding in agreement with her.

“What do you know, she can make sense. I’ll see you later,” he said, catching the girl rolling her eyes but not making a move to say anything. Reluctantly John sighed and nodded.

“Alright, if that’s what you want to do. I’ll try not to be gone too long,” he said, Karkat giving him a slight wave as he left the park.

It wasn’t very far to get back to the construction site they were saying at for the most part. By now he knew the way back without John having to be there to keep him on track, which was helpful in the fact that he was supposed to know where this was in case he ever got lost. He tried to ignore the slight stirring of unease in him that came with being alone. He told himself that the chances of some hunter attacking him the second he got out of the other spirit’s sights were pretty damn slim.

He managed to make it back in one piece, crawling inside of the large tube he usually slept in. He expected that to be an uncomfortable arrangement, but it didn’t seem like it actually bothered him any. He wasn’t going to question it.

Karkat wasn’t sure what to do now. He supposed he could just go to sleep, but he wasn’t all that tired. He also didn’t quite feel on ease enough to do that with no one else around either. If he did end up getting attacked, he wanted to at least be fucking awake in order to run away.

“Don’t want to hang out with Vriska? Yeah I don’t blame you.”

Karkat wasn’t even able to process the words, scrambling out of the tube to get away from the person who’d appeared next to him with no warning, a cackling laugh coming from behind him. It was only once he was out in the open, turned back towards the opening did he manage to place that laugh.

“What the ever loving fuck was that for? Holy shit splitting fuck was that really necessary?” he yelled, Terezi appearing outside of the tube now, doubled over still laughing.

“Oh yes that was most certainly necessary! Not being able to appreciate that moment would have been a horrible waste,” she said as she managed to pull herself together. Karkat snarled at her as he tried to regain his composure.

“Whatever, you just caught me off guard. What do you want?” he asked, hoping to save some of his dignity as well as calm himself. He hadn't expected to see the other spirit again any time soon,and he still didn't trust her in the slightest. Terezi shrugged, leaning against the side of the metal tube as she started speaking.

“Eh, not much, trying to keep a low profile until things start to blow over with the hunters again. How about you?” she asked, speaking like everything was completely normal and they were friends or some shit. He wanted to snap at her, but decided against it.

“Nothing. John’s hanging out with that girl you don’t like or something. Why do you need to have things blow over with the hunters? Did something happen?” he asked, not wanting to get on the topic of Vriska. He knew there was history here, and apparently they were sisters, and that was frankly all he wanted to know. He didn’t even want to know that, but you can’t fucking change the past.

“I just had a little run in with your hunter. He’s fun, I liked him so much I let him live, but now they’re all in a tizzy,” she explained, piping Karkat’s interest quite a bit.

“What do you mean my hunter? The douche in the shades?” he asked, Terezi nodding.

“The very one, and not one of the ones in the triangle shades either. Those two are are too serious, no fun at all,” she confirmed. Karkat found himself hesitating before asking the question on his mind.

“Why’d you let him live?” he finally said. He realized she said it was because she liked him so much, but he was ignoring that because he fucking doubted that was the reasoning, or at least not the whole one.

“Unnecessary killing isn’t a smart move, especially of a hunter. I know you’re probably thinking that we should take them out first, and yeah, the stronger ones are a threat that could be worth the risk, but if I went and killed their little baby hunter there’d be hell to pay from the rest of them,” Terezi explained. He found himself surprised that she was making sense. He hadn’t thought of the idea of the rest of the hunters wanting revenge if you killed one of their own, but it seemed logical. He didn’t even know how many there were.

“I think that other spirit John’s with killed one,” he told her, a bit nervous now about leaving John alone with her. If the hunters were pissed about what she did and decided to attack now he could get caught in the crossfire. Terezi sighed loudly before she answered.

“She just doesn’t know how to stay out of trouble. If they attack her she deserves it at this point, she started that whole mess on her own,” she said. Karkat was almost curious enough to ask just what had happened, but quickly remembered the fact that he doesn’t actually give a shit.

“Do you think they’ll attack? Is John in danger?” he asked instead. Relief spread through him when she started shaking her head. He was surprised that he’d almost gotten used to the way he eyes were constantly bleeding at this point.

“If they were smart they wouldn’t. At least two of them are too injured to be any good in a fight right now, not including the one she might have killed, and even if they do, you don’t have to worry about John if he’s with Vriska,” she told him.

“Is she really that strong?” he found himself asking without thinking.

“She is, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret, because I like you,” Terezi said, a large smile splitting her face. Even though he was getting a bit more used to it, the eyes combined with the sharp teeth and slightly too wide to be natural smile was really god damn unnerving.

“I’m on pins and needles in anticipation,” he said in the most deadpanned voice he could manage. Terezi disregarded his quip and continued.

“You don’t need to be strong to survive out here. Do you want to know what you need?” she asked him.

“What?” he said, trying to keep the same disinterest in his voice.

“You need to be smart. If you have that, then you’ll be just fine,” she told him. Karkat found himself nodding, because he could agree with that. Sure, strength fucking helped, but if you were intelligent enough to stay the hell away from hunters and not piss them off, that probably helped a whole lot more.

“Is that your approach?” he asked, Terezi grinning at him.

“What do you think?” she asked back, Karkat rolling his eyes.

“Alright, you’re amazing and smarter than any other ancient crazy ghost girls who will not be named. What are you actually doing here?” he switched the subject. Something about this girl made him think that she wasn’t just stopping by for a friendly chat. He could be wrong about that though, there really was no telling with this chick.

“Oh nothing, relax a little. I’ve just been keeping an eye on previously unnamed crazy ghost girls and noticed you leaving,” she explained. Karkat figured he could believe that, at least he hoped that was the truth. It was better than the idea that she had sought him out specifically.

Karkat found himself unsure about what to say for a moment. There was a part of him that wanted to ask what she’d been doing trailing Vriska, but an even bigger part of him wanted nothing to do with that. Instead, he decided to see if he could get a straighter answer out of her than he had the other two about something that was still bothering him.

“Well, if you’re just going to be bothering me then can I ask you something?” he said, Terezi seeming very interested.

“Of course, but only if you answer something for me as well,” she said. Karkat was less worried about her asking him things than he’d been the first time, since it didn’t seem like she would want anything more than to fuck with him a bit.

“Fine what fucking ever. Those two were just mentioning some sort of weird hunters? They said they’re older and stronger than the rest, do you know anything about them?” he asked. Terezi nodded, and Karkat found himself thankful that at least one person would explain this too him. John was usually good about this shit but Vriska was distracting him right now.

“Those two are the heads of the whole organization. I’ve had a few run-ins with them. If I was ever going to kill a hunter, they’d be the first on my list for sure. You do not want to run into them,” she said, surprising him with how straightforward she was being.

“Are they just weird because they’re strong? It makes sense if they’re just been doing this longer,” Karkat said.

“No, that’s not quite it. Mr. Dorito Man and Ms. Shady Eggplant are strange and hard to define. They’re something I can’t quite figure out, they’re surrounded by too much dark void-y magics,” Terezi told him. That wasn’t a very satisfying answer, but he guessed there wasn’t anything he could do about that.

“Alright then, what’s your bullshit question for me this time?” he asked, figuring it’d be best to just get this over with as fast as possible. He had to admit that Terezi being here was putting him more at ease while John was gone, but only to himself. Like hell was he going to say anything about that out loud.

“What do you think so far?” she asked after a moment, and god damn it why did she have to be so vague.

“What do I think about what? Being dead? The same fucking way I felt about it last time we spoke. It sucks harder than a name brand vacuum,” he snapped. Terezi chuckled at his answer.

“Is that all? I think you need to lighten up a bit,” she said. Karkat groaned and rolled his eyes, not wanting to deal with this conversation.

“It’s not as horrible as it started out as but I think I’m still perfectly justified in thinking that being dead and hunted by maniacs sucks,” he told her, Terezi shrugging her shoulders at him.

“Fair enough, you’ll get used to it in time,” she told him. Karkat decided to just ignore that comment, because as much as he wanted to fight her on that, there was a part of him that believed it. At least, this was assuming he survived long enough to get used to anything.

“Is that all?” he asked, hoping that she wouldn’t ask him more weird questions. To his relief, the girl nodded.

“Yes, I suppose so. I’d leave, but I think you’d rather have me stay until Johnny Dumbert gets back,” she said, and this time he did snap at her.

“Why would I give a fuck about that? Leave if you want I don’t give a single hell raising shit,” he said, going and sitting back inside of the pipe like he’d been before she got here. He wasn’t surprised this time when she appeared next to him with no warning.

“I think I’m good here for now,” Terezi told him. Karkat ignored her, trying to snuff out the slight relief that filled him at the fact that he stayed. It was just good to have someone strong around incase those damn hunters got it in their heads to attack again.

The idea that Vriska had just pissed them off even more was an unsettling one, and he didn’t want to have to deal with that at the moment.

In the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but think that things were going to start going very wrong, very soon.

When that came, he wanted to stay as far out of it as possible. He doubted he’d survive any other way.

Chapter Text

Terezi disappeared about two hours later, just a few moments before John returned. The boy ducked into the pipe, not seeming aware that the other spirit had been there at all.

“Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to throw you at Vriska and all so suddenly, I know she can be a bit much for most people,” the other boy said. Karkat simply shrugged, having calmed down from that for the most part by now. Terezi hadn’t been too irritating, which definitely helped quite a bit.

“Whatever, I didn’t have to stick around so it’s fucking peachy,” he said, John seeming to sigh in relief at that.

“Oh good, I thought you might have been mad that I left you alone to hang out with her for a while,” the other spirit said. Karkat had been annoyed by that at first, for the most part because he knew he was a sitting duck on his own. He debated giving John some grief about this, because even if he’d been safe with Terezi (or as safe as he could be with a crazy as fuck ancient spirit, safe from hunters at least) he’d still left him on his own.

“Well, I could have been easily killed if some hunter happened upon me while in a rage about one of their own being killed, but Terezi decided to stop by so it was fine,” he said, a frown falling over the other boy’s face. Karkat couldn’t tell if John was more upset by the passive aggressive way he was being right now, or just the mention of Terezi having been here. There was something rather hilarious about that uncertainty.

“What no I wasn’t gone that long you would have been fine. When was Terezi here?” he asked. Karkat shrugged, definitely starting to get tired now. He still wasn’t totally at east with putting his guard down after Terezi had talked to him about the hunters possibly getting pissed about Vriska killing one of their own, but it was definitely more than when John had been gone. Besides, maybe they would be so focused on Vriska they wouldn’t bother them for a while.

“I don’t know. She showed up like five minutes after I left you two and disappeared right before you got back,” he explained. John nodded, seeming a bit uncomfortable with this fact.

“It’s kind of weird that she showed up so soon after Vriska did,” the other spirit muttered.

“She said she was keeping an eye on her and noticed me leaving,” he said, not seeing a reason to keep that a secret.

“Oh. Well yeah okay that explains it. Did she say why she was following Vriska? Is she mad about her killing that hunter?” John started asking. Karkat shrugged, she hadn’t quite said why, but from what he’d been able to tell, it didn’t seem like it was anything like that.

“Eh, it’s probably more irritated than mad. I think she’s worried about the hunters attacking her for it, honestly,” he said. John perked up in interest at that. Karkat wasn’t sure if he was super off base, but Terezi didn’t seem to hate the other girl as far as he could tell. Of course, he barely knew either of them and could be very wrong, but that was his take on the situation.

“You think so? She doesn’t need to be worried about that, even if they did attack Vriska would be fine,” he said, and Karkat found himself shrugging again because like fuck did he actually know.

“That’s just the impression I got, I don’t know. She just said that they’d be stupid to attack her, but if they did she deserved it,” he explained. John seemed to think this over for a moment before nodding in agreement.
,

“Yeah okay that’s pretty accurate. This whole thing’s been a mess since she just had to go and kill that guy. God it was so stupid,” John said, muttering the last part more to himself than to Karkat. He was surprised by just how much genuine frustration seemed to be in the other boy’s voice, and found himself tempted a bit once again to ask what had gone down.

He decided to hold off on asking for now though, because he was fucking exhausted and wanted to be making a decision about getting into this shit when he was working at full capacity.

“Alright then, Vriska is a dumbass who kills people unnecessarily and causes more trouble than it’s worth, good to know. Now I’m tired as shit so yeah I guess sleep is going to be a thing,” he said, noticing the sun starting to rise and figured now was as good a time as any to pass out.

“Yeah okay, you do that,” John said. Karkat nodded a bit, leaning back more against the walls of the pipe and closing his eyes. It always took him a while to get to sleep, but when he told John that’s what he was trying to do the other spirit did a pretty nice job of being quiet and leaving him alone until he woke up again. He was also very good at not actually leaving while he was asleep, which Karkat was more thankful for than he would admit.

It took maybe another twenty or so minutes before the spirit was out cold.

He couldn’t feel anything. He knew on some level that he was on the floor and shaking but he couldn’t register any of that. His mind was a blurry mess of static and it made it impossible to think. He wasn’t even breathing and he couldn’t see or speak all he could focus on was that he was so fucking angry. He was certain that he’d never felt like this before and it was surging through him like thunder and it was almost impossible to keep himself from exploding.

He was fucking pissed. There wasn’t anything left for him to expend that energy on though, so instead he was curled into a ball absolutely trembling with rage.

They hurt him. They really fucking hurt him and he hadn’t done anything. He didn’t deserve this! He’d been so scared and he didn’t want to die but they didn’t listen they didn’t care! They just left him there and his fear started to turn to rage because this wasn’t fair at all! But he couldn’t do anything he was stuck and hurt and he was going to die and they were going to be perfectly fucking fine and he couldn’t stand it!

He wasn’t entirely sure what had happened between then and now. All he could remember was heat and smoke, he couldn’t breath and then a feeling of weightlessness. He felt free and now they were dead just like him but he was still so angry he didn’t know what to do.

“Aw jeeeeeeeeze, you’re a mess,” a voice said. He hadn’t heard anyone coming close but he’d been so wrapped up in trying and failing to control the hatred burning inside of him it was hard to focus on things like that. He felt his head lift up, almost out of his conscious control but he couldn’t see anything passed the tears. He hadn’t realized it but he must have been crying hard.

He still wasn’t thinking when he lunged towards the person, reaching to tear into them like he had with those others. A small part of his mind that still worked was saying that whoever this was hadn’t done anything to him but he couldn’t bother giving that any notice. He needed this. He needed to rip and tear and get that free feeling back because maybe then he wouldn’t be so angry.

He didn’t hit anything and it took a moment for the boy to register the fact that he missed.

“Well, talk about rude. I’m trying to help you here,” the person said, and it was then that he was able to at the very least realize that it was most likely a girl from the sound of their voice. Even with that he wasn’t thinking in his rage. He spun back towards them, not sure how they’d managed to get to the other side of the room so fast, but not concerned with it.

He ran towards her again, growling when she continued to slip away.

“Would you stop already? This is pathetic,” she said, just managing to anger him further. He kept attempting to attack the girl. He couldn’t focus on what she looked like passed his rage and tears. All he knew was that he wanted her dead. Her and anyone else who tried to mess with him they could all go die!

“Alright, I’m ending this. We can talk once you’ve calmed down,” she said, although he had no idea what she meant. What could she do to him at this point? He decided he didn’t care and proceeded to run at her again, knowing on some level that it wouldn’t work but not able to come up with any other plan of attack in his current state of mind. If he had a clearer mindset he wouldn’t have been attacking at all, however.

It was then that everything started to feel heavy, like he was moving through sand. What was left of his eyelids fell shut in a near instant, and soon he didn’t even have the strength to stay on his feet, dropping to his knees.

He managed to last maybe eight seconds before he was out cold.

When he came to again, he could finally feel something. That something ended up being a dull, throbbing pain covering his entire body.

“Owww,” he moaned under his breath, curling up in an attempt to feel better. This did nothing to make the pain lessen, and he just whimpered as he tried to figure out what was going on. He couldn’t remember what happened. He remembered being so very angry, but he couldn’t even think of why anymore.

A jolt ran through him as the memories flooded back. They were blurry and not making much sense still but they were there. He pushed himself up, instantly regretting that decision as the dull ache spiked into a stabbing pain at the movement. He stayed still until the pain began to subside again, slowly opening his eyes.

What he saw had him doubled over again, heaving and feeling like he was about to throw up. He wasn’t though, and that was even worse.

His body was… fuck. He’d only managed to see his legs, but they were mangled and charred and he could see the bones and just fuck. Hesitantly he lifted his hand to look at it. The need to vomit came back at full force at the sight, but still he was unable. It looked the same as his legs, and now that he was closer he could see bits of metal stabbing into him and he looked away with another heaving sob.

He didn’t know what was going on or what to do and he was just so scared.

“Oh, you’re awake.”

His head snapped up at the sound, and he scrambled back from the person standing a few feet away. He didn’t even know how he was still moving in his state, but he wasn’t going to question it. Every movement should be so much more agonizing than it was and while he was in pain it wasn’t as bad as it should have been, not by a longshot.

“Would you relax? I’m not going to hurt you,” the girl across the room said, although it wasn’t in the way that one would normally try to comfort someone. She sounded bored and annoyed with him.

“I-I…” he struggled to speak. The girl sighed, rolling her eyes as she walked towards him.

“Yeah? If you’re gonna say something just spit it out already, I haven’t got all day, ya know,” she said. He took a deep breath but it felt weird and just off in a way he couldn't describe and he shuddered when he thought of why that probably was.

“I’m dead,” he managed to choke out through small sobs. There was no other explanation. There was no way he could have survived that. There’s no way he could be doing anything in the state he was in.

“Alright, at least you’ve managed to realize that,” the girl said, sounding downright relieved. That answer seemed to confirm it. Even though there was really no other option, it still hurt. He tried to focus on the girl instead of this realization. She looked tall, but that could just be from his position on the floor. Her hair was a light blond, with stripes of electric blue running throughout it. She was wearing a blue jacket and seemed irritated with him.

“Are, um…” he stumbled, still finding it hard to formulate sentences. “Are you like, an angel?” he managed to ask at last. A look of surprise shot across her face for a moment before she looked away, scoffing at him.

“While that’s a pretty cute question, no, definitely not,” she answered. “I’m not a demon either if that was your next question,” she added on. He found himself nodding, not quite sure what else to say because she’d been right, that was what he was going to ask next.

It wasn’t that he’d run out of questions, he just had so many he had no idea where to start or if he even wanted the answers.

“Are you just going to sit there staring at nothing?” she asked after a few moments.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, curling back in on himself. Tears were beginning to leak from his eyes again, and he felt like the saltiness of them should have stung on his face much more than it was. The girl sighed loudly once again, not sounding like she was in any mood to deal with him.

“Look, you're dead. I get it, it’s a big shock, but you can’t be dwelling on that shit, okay? I’ll help you, but only if you man up and stop feeling so sorry for yourself,” she said. He slowly uncurled to stare up at the girl, shocked that she could say something like that when he was in this state. That shock actually helped him to do what she said and get a bit of a hold on himself.

“I was- I was just killed. Do you even see me right now? I’m fucking… fuck, I can see my bones in spots! I think I should be allowed to freak out a little bit!” he snapped. The girl was smirking at him now, looking less irritated if anything.

“You can freak out, just don’t be such a spineless wimp about it,” she told him. He glared at her as he answered. Or at least, he felt like he was glaring, he wasn’t sure if what was left of his face could manage to convey that as well as he wanted it to.

“I’m not a wimp,” he muttered.

“I’ll say, you fucking slaughtered those guys! For any spirit taking down four people at once is a pretty difficult feat. Combine that with the fact that you literally just died? Well, color me impressed,” she said, confusing him even more.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said after a moment.

“What’s your name?” she asked, not seeming bothered to explain herself.

“John,” he said after a slight hesitation, “and you?” he added on.

“Vriska Serket. Now John, you’ve got a lot of potential, so I want to help you out. The thing is I want the John who went and took down four total douchebags singlehandedly, now wimpy ‘oh poor me, I’m dead and look disgusting’ John. Do you think you can do that?” she asked. John frowned at her, starting to get irritated again.

“But I still don’t know what you’re talking about! When did I take down four guys? Can you please explain to me what’s going on? If I’m dead how am I even talking to you?” he started rambling off. A smile appeared on the girl’s face and she started chuckling as she shook her head.

“Oh John, you have a lot to learn,” she said before focusing back on him again. When he met her eyes, a shudder ran through him. There was something there that he hadn’t noticed before. Something old and dark and very powerful.

“You’re in luck too, because I’m one heeeeeeeell of a teacher.”

Karkat jolted awake with a shock, his body feeling frozen for a moment as his mind tried to place what had just happened in relation to his current state. He might have been shaking and he gradually became aware of someone speaking close to him.

“Karkat? Whoa Karkat what’s wrong?” he managed to comprehend that it was John and he shifted his focus towards the other spirit, not able to push what had just happened out of his mind.

“What did you do?” he found himself asking without thinking, absolutely hating the fear that tinged his voice. A look of confusion fell over the other boy’s face as he stared at him.

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything, I mean besides wake you up just now,” John said, but Karkat found himself shaking his head.

“No fuck, what happened to you? When you were with Vriska,” he tried to clarify, but the other boy just seemed even more befuddled.

“Nothing, we just hung out and caught up on things for a bit. What’s wrong?” he said, but fuck that wasn’t what he meant either. Good god he needed to focus so that he could actually articulate what was going on with him. The only issue was that it was a bit difficult seeing as he actually had no fucking clue what that was. Even so, he tried to force himself to calm down, taking a few false breaths in an attempt to fool his mind into thinking it would actually do something.

“I saw shit, just now. Fuck, I don’t even know what I’m talking about, but you were there with Vriska and you were pissed and attacked her and she was saying how she was going to teach you because you killed like four people at once or something? I don’t know you asked her if she was an angel and fuck this is sounding even more ridiculous the more I talk about it,” Karkat felt himself rambling, starting to cool down from his dream and realizing that it had been just that, a dream.

When he turned back to the other boy however, a look of horror was plastered on his face, causing that fear to surge right back through him.

“How… how do you know that? Did Terezi tell you?” he asked, starting to sound angry near the end. Karkat quickly started shaking his head though because that had definitely not been what happened.

“What no! No fuck, look it was just a dream right? I mean fuck I just had a dream, there’s no why it could have been something that actually happened,” Karkat tried to reason. John was still looking rather horrified though and the other spirit slumped in on himself as he started speaking.

“But that did happen! That was when I d- when I first became a spirit. I would have thought maybe like, it was just a coincidence if you hadn’t, you know, mentioned the weird angel question thing and the four guys,” John told him. Karkat found himself staring at the other boy as he tried to let this new information sink in. That just, fuck, that couldn’t be right. How the hell did he dream about that?

Instead of focusing on those big questions, his mind seemed to latch on to something else instead, if just to keep him from totally freaking out.

“You killed four people right then?” he asked. Once again John’s face fell into a frown, and he looked away from the other boy as he answered.

“Yeah… I told you I always had an advantage over other spirits, kind of got off to a head start,” he muttered.

“Why?” Karkat found himself asking, not sure if he was referring to why he was so powerful, or why he had killed them. John seemed to think he was referring to the latter.

“They deserved it,” he said decisively, and for a second Karkat found himself actually afraid of John. That hadn’t been something since the boy had first explained to him what was going on, but fuck there was something about the way he was right now that sent a chill through him.

“What did they do?” he found himself asking. When John spoke though, it wasn’t to answer his question.

“How did you do this? It’s like reading my mind or something,” the other spirit changed the subject instead. Karkat made a hopeless motion with his hands because he had absolutely no clue what had even just happened, let alone how.

“I have no fucking idea and I would really appreciate if it never happened again. I’m sort of pissed that it happened once to begin with, because fuck I didn’t want to see any of that and I doubt you wanted me to either so this is just a horrible experience on both our ends,” He rambled, starting to feel a bit more like himself again at least. John gave him a small smile and nodded a bit.

“Heh yeah, it probably would have been better for everyone if you hadn’t seen that,” the other spirit said. Neither boy spoke after that for a few moments, not quite sure how to recover from this strange situation. Karkat was trying to keep himself from asking any further questions about what he’d seen. This whole thing was already a huge breech of John’s privacy and he didn't want to push him any further than he already had.

He managed to settle on something that he felt wasn’t too private but also not an extremely god damn awkward change of subject like John was most likely going to pull if he didn’t say something soon.

“So, eating more makes us stronger? I mean I guess that’s pretty obvious but like, does it matter if you spread it out or does having a lot a once do some sort of boost or…?” he trailed off at the end, figuring the other boy could understand what he was asking well enough. This didn't exactly matter to him, since he was going to eat as little as possible no matter what the affect was, but it was something to talk about. John seemed to perk up a bit at his questions. Karkat supposed having something to distract himself from what had just happened a bit helped.

“Um, well eating a lot at once makes you stronger faster? I don’t think it’s a boost in itself though. A lot of spirits aren’t able to eat at all right away and get picked off really quick, so you’re lucky. I uh, I went a bit overboard at first, I wasn’t thinking all that well at the time,” he explained. Karkat nodded, turning to look towards the open end of the pipe. It was rather bright outside now, about mid-day. He wasn’t going to risk heading out for at least a few more hours.

“So you have no idea how I could have known that stuff? You’ve never heard of something like this happening?” he asked, even though it was pretty obvious that he hadn't. John frowned a bit again and shook his head.

“No, sorry, but I’ll ask around. I don’t know everything, someone else might have a better idea though,” John told him, and Karkat nodded. Yeah, that seemed like all they could do for now.

“Okay yeah sure, now asides from asking people if they knew what the hell that was, I suggest that we perhaps forget that this ever happened and never speak of it again,” Karkat said, sincerely hoping that John would agree with him. The other boy chuckled a bit before nodding.

“Yeah alright, that sounds like it’ll work,” he said much to Karkat’s thanks.

“Shit, I’m still exhausted,” he muttered, John looking interested at that.

“Whatever that was might have actually taken some energy out of you, especially if it turns out to be some sort of weird power,” he said, and Karkat nodded. That did make some sense, but it was still a load of bullshit because he had no choice in doing that shit.

“Well, I’m going back to sleep. That shit better not happen again or I’m going to manage to build up enough rage to forgo having to ever eat again and just run on the never ending fuel of my hate for this entire situation and everyone involved in it,” he rambled. John seemed to find this more amusing than anything, but Karkat didn’t quite care at the moment.

“Just go back to sleep dude,” the other spirit told him, and Karkat was halfway tempted to argue with him. He decided against it after a moment though, instead just nodding and closing his eyes. It took much longer for him to fall asleep this time, fear about having one of those strange dreams again keeping him up. Eventually he managed it, not sure how much time it took before he passed out.

When Karkat woke up this time it was dark, the sun having set about an hour ago from what he could tell. Relief flooded him when he realized that he had not had any other weird psychic past dream things.

That relief dropped away into a feeling of dread when he started scanning his surroundings.

John was gone.

He’d really fucked up this time, hadn’t he?

---

Good god he’d really fucked up this time.

It’d been three days since the whole ‘Aradia incident’ as they had taken to calling it started. They still couldn’t wake her up. He hadn’t even been back to see her yet, and Sollux hadn’t left the base since they brought her back and everyone was on fucking eggshells.

Why the fuck did he ever let her leave? At the very least he should have questioned her more. He was the last one to speak to her, he could tell she was acting weird. Everyone was telling him not to blame himself, but that didn’t change the fact that he definitely could have done something about this before it happened.

On top of all of this they were still staying at Feferi’s since with Mom and Bro trying everything they could to save Aradia the whole home issue was being pushed to the back burner. The girl said over and over again that it was fine and he and Dirk had managed to go back to Sollux’s to grab their things but that wasn't the point. It was just another factor onto this whole clusterfuck they had to deal with right now that he did not need.

Pretty much everything was on hold while they tried to figure out what to do with Aradia. With each day that passed it seemed less likely that they would find a way to wake her up, or if it was even possible to. He didn’t want to think like that though because Aradia was his fucking friend and if she died then it was his fault.

He was at the base now. Not because he was working, pretty much everyone not adept at the magics was on an impromptu holiday until they could figure this out. He didn’t want to stay in Feferi’s giant empty house with no one but Dirk though, and he still wasn’t allowed to go anywhere that wasn’t voided by himself.

He didn’t want to be here either, but it was his only other option. Every so often Rose or Roxy would come out to ask how he was doing, and he just shrugged and told them he was fine each time.

He was messing on his phone when Rose came out this time, but it didn’t seem like it was for the sole reason of checking on him.

“What’s up?” he asked as she grabbed her bag and started towards the front door.

“I’m going to go grab a few supplies, is there anything you want?” she asked, and Dave shook his head as he turned towards his sister.

“From whatever freaky shop you get your magic ingredients from? Nah, I’m good,” he told her, Rose nodding absently. Dave went back to the game he was playing on his phone, only to look up again when Rose walked right back into the house after less than three seconds, locking the door behind her.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, pushing himself up off the couch. To his relief, she didn’t look afraid or anything like that, just very, very confused.

“There is a spirit out there,” She told him in a calm, even voice. Dave’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as he tried to process what she'd just said.

“Seriously?” he asked, rushing over towards the window and peeking out. He felt his mouth drop open when he saw that Rose was indeed telling the truth. There was a spirit out there, shuffling his feet as he paced back and forth in front of their base, stealing glances at the building before looking around him as if he was unsure he had the right place.

Rose was beside him, looking out the window as well within seconds, but the spirit didn’t seem to take any notice of their staring. He shouldn’t have, since he shouldn’t be able to even see their building with the void shields in place.

“What the fuck is this? Is that the Trainer?” Dave found himself asking, scanning the spirit. He'd only seen the Trainer once before, and it had ran off before they'd gotten a chance to take it down. Rose nodded at his question. Her lips were pursed into a frown as she seemed to be trying to take all of this in.

“I believe it is,” she said, an almost dumbfounded tone to her voice, which Dave did not blame her for in the least. He figured they should probably go tell someone immediately, but this was almost too insane to look away from. The spirit wasn’t even doing anything, he honestly looked awkward as fuck out there.

The Trainer was a pretty weak spirit for the most part, the only reason they hadn’t been able to take him out since he first started showing up about two years ago was that he was difficult to find most of the time. The other issue was that he seemed to have some sort of ability to get living animals to protect him, which a lot of them were more hesitant to kill outright.

“What’s he doing?” Dave asked.

“I have no idea,” Rose answered, pulling away from the window. Dave followed suit, still glancing back to make sure the spirit didn’t disappear once they took their eyes off of him.

“Where are you going?” he asked, following the other girl towards the front door. He grabbed a sword on the way, not sure what was about to happen. He still was not exactly in fighting shape again yet, but he could still pull backup for Rose if need be.

Or they could just go and tell someone like sensible people, but if he was being honest with himself, he kind of wanted to find out what this was without anyone else. The others would probably kill the spirit no questions asked, which is the smart thing, but this was just too weird to pass up okay?

“I’m going to see what he wants,” Rose said simply, unlocking the door. Dave nodded, following close behind her. If they stayed by the entrance, even if he tried to attack they could just duck inside. It wasn’t like the Trainer was even that big of a threat.

When they stepped out, the Trainer caught sight of them, looking rather apprehensive. He fucking should be, because when all was said and done, they were still going to kill him. He knew where their base was and also they’d been trying to take the guy out for a while now.

“Hello there,” Rose said calmly, walking towards the spirit. Dave noticed her reaching into her bag and leaving her hand inside, most likely around some weapon. The spirit offered her a shaky smile and awkward wave.

“Oh uh, hello to you too,” he said, and this was starting to get fucking surreal. The only spirit he knew of that would just chat up people was Casanova, and that was because of his whole charm stitch. The trainer did not exactly have that same intrinsic charm about him.

“What are you doing here?” Dave asked, stepping forward more, letting his sword stay in view. He wasn’t about to let the spirit get any ideas. It didn't need to know he was still injured, after all. The spirit seemed to catch sight of the weapon, its awkward smile dropping.

“Ah, right, that. I’m here because I would like to ask a question, and preferably get some sort of answer. Also, I would like to apologize, on behalf of someone other than myself. Not that she is really all that, apologetic or sad. But I feel bad anyway, and someone should apologize, even if it isn’t their fault, entirely,” he said, his words a bit hesitant and disjointed in places, like he was nervous.

“Alright,” Rose started again, and Dave was a bit surprised that she was actually going along with this. “Let’s start with the apology, and then we can get to the questions, because I have a few things to ask you as well,” she continued. The spirit nodded.

“Yes okay. The apology actually has to do with the question, in that, they both have to do with Aradia. I am sorry, on behalf of Vriska, who is actually probably not sorry, about what happened to her, and my question, is I was wondering. Is she okay?” he said, and this was almost too much information to process at once. Rose seemed similarly confused and a bit speechless. She appeared to get over this faster than Dave did however, nodding a bit before speaking again.

“Well first, I’d like to know who exactly this Vriska is,” his twin said. The spirit frowned, shoulders drooping.

Dave couldn’t get past the fact that they were talking to a spirit like it was no big deal. The spirit was fucking apologizing for one of their hunters getting hurt and he was so fucking confused right now. He really, really hoped no one else came outside right now, because the chances of them just attacking and ruining this bazaar as fuck experience was way too high.

“Vriska is um, Vriska. The one who you know, attacked her,” the spirit told them.

“She has a name?” Dave blurted out, realizing after he said it that it was probably a sort of dumb thing to say. He never thought about that though, they had the codenames and that was it. Names made them almost seem human, which was just weird.

This spirit seemed very human though. Awkward as fuck and faltering and not at all like the crazy monsters he knew they were. This was a trick they used a lot, but this seemed almost too real. Dave found himself wondering what this spirit’s actual name was despite himself.

“Yes?” the Trainer said, definitely sounding like he thought that was a dumb question.

“I have two other things I would like to know before answering your question,” Rose said, and the spirit turned his attention back to her.

“Yes alright, I will attempt to answer these as best as I can,” he said. Dave realized he had an accent, and thought that maybe the choppy way he spoke was because English wasn’t his first language or something.

“Alright then, first things first, how did you find this place?” she asked, and shit yeah that was a good question. He obviously knew they were here from his awkward stumbling around they’d seen from the window.

“Oh, Terezi showed me. I was confused, because there is not actually a place here, that I can see. But then I saw you come out of nowhere, and figured she might not have been messing with me, like I thought she was,” he explained. Rose nodded, even though that didn’t tell then much.

“A quick add on to this question before the next one, who is Terezi, exactly?” she said, and Dave was thankful because if she didn’t ask then he was going to have to, and he didn’t want to use up their two question limit.

“Terezi is uh, the one with the eyes? Well no, the more accurate statement would be, she is the one without the eyes, who is a little scary sometimes, and laughs a lot,” he told them. Dave felt a look of shock pass over his face as he scanned the area.

“Fucking Redglare brought you here?” he said, the spirit nodding as if this wasn’t a big deal.

“Um, yes again, if Redglare is Terezi,” he said.

“Maybe you should head back inside,” Rose told him, but Dave shook his head. If Redglare wanted to kill him she could have definitely done it by now.

“I’m good,” he said, hoping his sister wouldn’t push it. Thankfully she didn’t, instead turning back towards the spirit to continue her questioning.

“Alright then, the last thing I would like to know is how you know Aradia,” she said. The spirit nodded, not seeming bothered by all these questions.

“Oh that, Aradia was my friend, before all of this, that is. We met though a live action role playing group. I guess, another thing I would like to apologize for, this time, on the behalf of myself, who is actually sorry, and not pretend sorry, is for getting her into this whole mess,” he said, and okay all of that made absolutely no fucking sense.

“Aradia was friends with a spirit?” Rose asked, sounding just as confused as Dave felt.

“Spirits do live action role playing?” he asked as well, because really, he felt that was the much more pressing issue here. The spirit was shaking his head though.

“Oh no, no that’s not it. This was before the whole spirit thing, we were friends then. I’ve been leaving her alone, after the bad thing happened, because I thought she might not want to get involved with it. Also no, I don’t think spirits have live action role play, sadly,” the spirit attempted to clarify. Dave shared a quick look with his twin, both very god damn unsure about what it was this guy was saying, and even more unsure about what he was implying.

“Are you saying you were something before you became a spirit?” Rose asked, her voice slow in a clear effort to stay as calm as possible. Dave realized they were way over the two questions that they’d said they would ask, but this guy didn’t seem to notice so he wasn’t going to say anything.

“Yes. Was that not something you were um, aware of?” he asked back. The twins shook their heads, because no, no that was not something they were aware of.

“How the hell did you become a spirit?” Dave blurted out, because holy shit that was definitely more important than finding out if they LARPed or whatever the fuck. The spirit was frowning a bit as he answered this one.

“I died? Um, that seemed like, a pretty obvious thing, to me at least,” he said.

“Oh. Oh shit,” Dave said, it finally connecting for him. “You’re her friend, fuck, the one that died. Travis?” he said, pretty sure that wasn’t the right name but he couldn’t remember what it was. Aradia hadn’t talked about him much, Dave figured because it was a touchy subject.

“Tavros, but that is a close guess,” he said. Dave couldn’t do anything but stare, feeling like an idiot because Jesus fuck, this was obvious. They were literally spirits.

“Um, you still haven’t told me, if she’s doing okay,” the spirit said, knocking them both out of their thoughts.

“She has been unconscious for the past three days. They were able to get her out before the Spider killed her, but we don’t know if she’ll recover,” Rose told him, the spirit, fuck, Tavros, slumping at the news.

“Oh no, that is so very, not a good thing,” he said sadly. Before anyone else could say anything Dave tugged on his sister’s sleeve.

“Rose, we need to talk, now,” he said, Rose actually nodding in agreement before turning towards Tavros.

“If you could stay here for a moment,” she told him. The spirit nodded, and the two siblings took a few steps away in an attempt to get out of earshot but not let him out of their sights.

“What the fuck Rose? What are we supposed to do? Do we still kill him?” Dave asked her in a whisper, continuing to glance over at the other boy every few seconds. One of the times he seemed to notice, offering him a small wave and a bit of a forced toothy smile. Dave gave a slight nod before turning back towards his sister.

“We should, he’s still a threat,” she said, although Dave could hear the uncertainty in her voice. Most people wouldn’t have been able to, but he knew her well enough to see though that shit.

“It’s Aradia’s friend. She’d been trying to get fucking vengeance for him for like two years,” he argued, Rose sighing in frustration.

“I am well aware of that, alright? That doesn’t change the fact that he is a spirit and has killed people,” she said, and for a second Dave had forgotten that fact. “And even if he used to be human, he’s already dead Dave,” she said, and reluctantly he nodded.

“Did you know this shit? Please tell me I wasn’t the only one not to realize they were fucking people,” he said. Much to his relief Rose shook her head.

“I had asked about it before, but I had not gotten a straight answer. It was something I considered but I didn’t want to believe it,” she told him. Dave nodded, because he didn’t want to believe it much either.

This meant that Redglare, or apparently her name was fucking Terezi, used to be a person. This meant the god damn Ringmaster was human at one point. That new spirit had probably died recently and was fucking terrified.

“You have your wands in your purse?” Dave asked in a whisper, Rose nodding. “Want to jump him? I’ll cover you,” he said, despite the fact that his gut was twisting at the idea. When he glanced back over, the kid was shuffling his feet awkwardly and looking over at them, Dave figured wondering what they were talking about.

“It feels dirty attacking when he has his guard down like this,” Rose said.

“Should we give him a warning? Like, just this once for Aradia, since she did all this for him and like, you know, might not…” he trailed off, still not wanting to talk about what might happen to the girl. Rose seemed to think this over before slowly nodding, and Dave couldn’t help the relief that rushed though him at that. He managed to keep it hidden as best he could though.

“That would ease my own conscious, I suppose,” she said. The two turned back towards the spirit, who was smiling at them again. Good god Dave was glad they weren’t just jumping him, the kid was so god damn trusting it would have been unfair as fuck.

“Okay, so, what was all that uh, whispering about?” he asked. Rose sighed as she pulled out her wands.

“You do know we are hunters, correct?” she said, the spirit’s eyes widening at the weapon as the smile that had been on his face dropped.

“Ooooh no. I mean, oh yes, yes I was aware of that fact,” he told them, sounding very nervous as he didn’t take his eyes off of her weapon.

“Listen, we should not be doing this, but considering the fact that you were Aradia’s friend and given her current condition, we are going to give you an opportunity to leave. I am going to count to five, if you are not out of sight in that time, I’ll attack,” she told him calmly, the spirit nodding frantically.

“Under- I got it,” he said, Dave thinking that he meant to say understood but then cut himself off for some reason, probably because he was freaking out.

“One,” Rose started, the spirit starting to run down the street. He managed to get a few feet before wings unfurled from his back and he started off into the sky. Rose made it to three before they could no longer see him past the surrounding buildings. She stopped counting, and the two were silent for a moment.

“They’re going to kill us,” Dave said after a moment. Rose sighed as she put her wands back into her purse.

“I have half a mind to kill them,” she muttered before turning towards the boy. “Come to the store with me?” she asked, and Dave nodded, quickly concealing the sword he grabbed earlier.

“Yeah sure, I could use an excuse to get out of god damn house arrest,” he said, starting to follow his sister away from their base.

“It doesn’t seem that was much use, Redglare appears to have already known our location,” Rose mused. That fact was still boggling Dave’s mind a bit, and he couldn’t help but glance around them as if the spirit was going to show up. He doubted it, but there was still a bit of a lingering fear.

“What the hell do we even tell them when we get back? Aradia’s friend is a spirit and we let him go?” Dave asked.

“We couldn’t have attacked him by ourselves, given we didn't want to die. I have no doubt it was a trap, unless Redglare was content with sending the Trainer to his death, she was most likely watching,” Rose said, certainty in her voice. Dave hadn’t thought of that possibility, but he had to admit that seemed pretty damn likely. There was also a likely chance that she did just let him go off to get killed, but they didn't need to risk that.

“And the fact that we didn’t immediately go get someone when we saw the Trainer out there?” he put out, and Rose just shrugged noncommittally.

“That, they can be angry about,” she said, and yeah Dave did not have an adequate excuse for them to use for that either.

It didn’t take long for the two to reach the shop Rose needed to go to. Dave didn’t bother asking her what it was she was looking for, since the chances of him getting the wrong thing if he tried to help were pretty much guarantee. Instead he followed his sister around the store as they continued to try to process everything that had happened.

“Rose, Rose this means they all have name. Holy shit Rose, the Ringmaster could be called like, Frank or some shit,” he started to ramble, the girl rolling her eyes as she put a bottle of something in her basket.

“Yes, I suppose that’s a valid conclusion from all this, if a bit of a useless one” she said. Dave could tell that she was still thinking though all of this to herself, but he needed to talk out this shit. He wasn't one for inner monologues, outer ones worked fine for him instead.

“Does this change anything?” he asked, honestly unsure about that. He was telling himself that it didn’t, since they were all still killers like Rose had pointed out earlier. The fact that they used to be people at one point was moot, they weren’t anymore. From all the shit he'd seen, it was god damn obvious they'd stopped being people a long time ago.

(Tavros seemed really fucking human and Tere- fuck, Redglare had been fun before she attacked him and he needed to not think about this shit.)

“I don’t believe it does. They were already incredibly human-like before we were aware of this, although I will give you that this is a rather disturbing revelation,” she said, starting up towards the checkout line. Dave nodded in agreement with that because yeah, he could get behind that. He didn’t want this to change shit.

The two finished up at the store and started back towards the base. Dave felt hyper vigilant as they walked, since Redglare had most likely been watching them earlier.

Wow, he did not want to face everyone when they got back to the base. Everything seemed like it was starting to fall apart, and now that they knew that Redglare, the Trainer and who knows what other spirits knew there exact location he was sure things were going to practically explode.

That wasn’t even getting into the fact that they’d never told either of them that spirits used to be human, and this new information about the Trainer, and just everything they were already freaking out about with Aradia and where they were going to stay and fuck.

He had no idea what was going to happen when they got back, and he almost didn’t want to find out.

Chapter Text

“So do we say something to them? I mean, we have to say something to them, don’t we?” Dave asked as the base started to come back into sight. He tried to tell himself that he wasn’t freaking out about what had just went down with the Trainer, but that was a load of bull. He felt partially to blame for not figuring this out on his own, but fuck with some of the powers and how strong the spirits were the idea that they’d started off as actual living people wasn’t something that had ever crossed his mind.

“I do think we should say something to them, yes,” Rose answered, shifting one of the bags in her hands. She seemed calm on the outside, but if there was one thing that Dave knew it was that you could not judge a single person he was related to on how they looked on the outside.

Except maybe Roxy, or Mom at times. Even then you’re probably making a grave error on something.

“Shouldn’t we have some sort of plan? Like, who’s there right now? Mom? Fuck, is Bro here today? Should we even say anything while they’re trying to help Aradia? That’s the priority right now, maybe we should just wait,” Dave knew he was rambling a bit at this point, and the two had stopped outside of the front door. No need to let anyone know they were back before they were ready to confront them.

“Aradia does come first, I agree. I’ll take this back to them and tell them that there’s something urgent we need to speak about once we get a chance,” Rose said, and Dave nodded at that. It seemed reasonable, let them know that something had gone down but that it wasn’t too major that they just leave Aradia in the lurch.

Something told him that they were getting very close to reaching a wall with her. If something didn’t start shifting with her condition soon, he was worried that the chances of her waking up were really fucking slim.

He just wished he knew what had happened. No one was being specific in what was wrong besides the fact that she couldn’t wake up. Dave had no idea if they wouldn’t tell him, or if they couldn’t tell him, and he wasn’t sure which one would be worse.

“Yeah alright, I guess I’ll just wait out here until you’ll all finished up and we can talk?” he said, Rose nodding.

“Yes. Also, don’t worry, Bro hasn’t been around for the past day or so. He said he’d already done everything he was able to on that first night,” his sister said. That actually did calm him down a bit, because he was not sure if he was ready to talk to Bro about something this serious yet. Or take on Bro over why he and Rose had gone out into what really could and should have been a trap without telling anyone.

“What does he mean by that? Does Bro actually know some of that voodoo magic junk? I never really pegged him for being into that shit,” Dave asked. Rose shrugged as they started inside the building.

“He knows something. I’ll be honest I’m not entirely sure what he did, but it seems to have kept her alive,” she explained.

“Well, can’t he just like, do more of that thing? And fix her?” he asked, sitting down on the couch.

“I don’t think it works like that Dave,” Rose told him. He was halfway sure that she’d rolled her eyes at him, but decided to let it slide for now. There was too much important shit going down right now for them to be bickering every five seconds.

“Alright, well you should go and give them your weird herb shit and try to fix Aradia again,” he said, Rose nodding in agreement.

“Try not to freak out too much while you wait,” she said as she started towards the back room. He didn’t say anything, instead casually flipping her off and taking his phone out of his pocket.

He needed to talk to somebody about this. He should just wait until they were done with Aradia and Rose could be there to back him up and make it sound like they weren’t complete idiots, but he couldn’t just sit here calmly and wait while all of this was bubbling inside of him.

His first choice would have been Roxy, but she was back helping with Aradia right now, that also went for Rose but she didn’t count because she was there. Feferi was busy too. Dirk was out of the fucking question. Sollux was actually in his office right now, but the dude had been so fucking out of it since this all started he didn’t want to throw even more shit on the poor guy. He didn’t feel close enough to Equius to start messaging him about this.

So that left Eridan and Nepeta. Dave found himself flipping back and forth between the two names in his phone, trying to decide which one to message. He ended up closing his eyes, quickly switching between the two before stopping to see who he ended up on.

Alright, Eridan it is then.

turntechGodhead started pestering caligulasAquarium
TG: yo
TG: dude i need to talk to someone and it looks like youre todays lucky winner
TG: fuck man i know youre there you never do anything when youre not at work
TG: eridan fuck
CA: wwhat do you wwant
CA: clearly you dont realize wwhat a busy guy i am
CA: i dont havve time to be entertainin evvery hapless sap wwho starts messagin me
TG: bullshit
TG: you always complain when we dont let you work because you have no friends
CA: i havve plenty a friends
CA: you havvent met em because i happen to keep my wwork and personal livves separate
TG: alright whatever
TG: this isn’t the point
TG: i didn’t message you to fight about fuck all
TG: this is actually pretty important
CA: did somethin else happen
TG: kinda
CA: wwhat the fuck kind of answwer is kinda
CA: either somethin happened or it didn’t there ain’t no inbetwween
TG: alright then something happened
CA: fuck
CA: did someone else die
CA: good god wwe are pathetic wwere droppin like flies here
TG: no fuck no one else died
TG: no ones died at all dude
TG: aradia could still be okay theyre trying to help her right now
CA: yeah yeah
CA: i get that you wwere friends wwith her and so this is pretty upsettin but i dont think shes gonna exactly bounce back from this
TG: can i get to the point here or should i go talk to someone who’s not a raging douchebag
TG: i can message nepeta right now dont think i wont
CA: dont have a fucking fit
CA: wwhat happened
TG: did you know spirits used to be human
CA: wwhat
TG: theyre people who died
TG: like exactly what it says on the tin
TG: theyre spirits and i feel like a fucking dumbass for now seeing this sooner
CA: you feel like a dumbass ivve been doin this for three years and this is newws to me
TG: so you didn’t know
CA: no i didnt fuckin knoww
CA: howwd you find out
TG: you know the trainer
CA: nevver wwent against him but yeah
TG: he stopped by
TG: wanted to know if aradia was okay
TG: used to be a friend of hers
TG: you know that friend who she wanted to get revenge for that was killed by a spirit
TG: that guy
CA: are you fuckin wwith me
CA: this sounds like some daytime drama bullshit if i evver heard it
TG: i believe whole fucking heartedly that youve heard your fair share of daytime drama bullshit
TG: those things are fucking hilarious
TG: although you take them seriously and i can respect that
TG: but no im not fucking with you
TG: im still kind of trying to process it
CA: wwell shit
CA: wwhat happened to trainer
CA: howwd he evven showw up
TG: redglare showed him the base
TG: also yeah i guess redglare knows where the base is
TG: thats probably important
CA: holy fuck you think
CA: should i be headin down it sounds like everythin is spiralin wway out a control ovver there
TG: i dont know man
TG: i have no fucking idea whats going on
TG: im just waiting for rose to come back out once they decide to take a break from aradia and we can talk to mom about it or something
CA: im comin down
CA: youre clearly in ovver your head here and need some help
TG: theres not really anything to do now but whatever
CA: you nevver said wwhat happened to trainer
CA: also i wwant all the fuckin details wwhen i get there
TG: trainer got away
TG: his names tavros btw
TG: redglares name is terezi and the spider is vriska
TG: i have no idea if im spelling any of that right
CA: alright hold up
CA: believve me i wwant to hear all a this
CA: but its gonna have to wwait like fifteen minutes
CA: wwe can start up again wwhen im in person
TG: yeah alright that works i guess
TG: hurry it up though i dont have all day to wait around
TG: or i do but i dont fucking want to
CA: be there in fifteen stri
TG: see ya
caligulasAquarium ceased pestering turntechGodhead

Dave rolled his head back as he signed out of Pesterchum, forced once again to wait. It had helped telling someone about this, even if it was a total douchebag. Eridan wasn’t all bad all the time though, and it was pretty obvious at least right now that he was worried about what was going down.

He ended up playing tetris on his phone for the next twenty minutes before the door burst open and Eridan rushed in. Dave didn’t bother to look up from his game, instead just waving offhandedly. He was sort of shaken up by all of this, but that did not mean anyone had to see that.

“Took you long enough,” he said, practically feeling the other boy rolling his eyes.

“There was traffic,” Eridan shot, walking across the room and pulling one of the chairs closer to the couch Dave was on before sitting down and facing him.

“I’m pretty sure you just spent at least ten minutes messing around with your hair or scarf or some other hipster bullshit you like but if we want to go with traffic I’ll take it,” Dave said. Eridan snarled and rolled his eyes at the other boy but to Dave’s surprise didn’t push it.

“Whatever, the point is I’m here now and I want all a the details,” he said, Dave nodding before starting to explain what had happened. Eridan listened intently throughout his tale, waiting to ask any questions until Dave had finished explaining.

“So yeah, now I’m just waiting for everyone else to come out so that we can talk to them and figure out what to do,” he finally concluded. Eridan seemed to realize that this was the end and immediately started speaking again.

“Good fucking lord that’s a lot a heavy findings Strider,” he said. Dave couldn’t help but agree with him. “Was it a good idea to let him go though? I get that you two were in shock and were feelin for Aradia but he’s still a spirit,” Eridan added on, and Dave shrugged.

“Fuck man I don’t know. I mean yeah, we still have to take them out, don’t worry I’m not going back on that. They’re fucking serial murders and I’m pretty sure most of them lost whatever humanity they had left a long god damn time ago. We just didn’t know if attacking would have been a good idea, I’m still hurt and the chances of Redglare hiding out somewhere were too high,” he explained. Eridan seemed to take that as a reasonable answer, which was good because Dave really didn’t have a better one.

“Yeah alright that’s true, I guess there wasn’t much of a choice then,” he said. The two talked a bit more, mostly about how fucked up all of this was and if there was a chance that no one had told them because they just assumed it wasn’t something that needed explaining. Dave really didn’t think that was actually the case though.

It was starting to get late when the two started to hear someone heading out of the back room. Dave wondered if Rose had prefaced what they were going to talk about at all, or if she’d just gone with the vague and cagey ‘Dave and I would like to talk to you about something later.’ Urg, why was he even acting like that was a legitimate question. Of course she’d gone with the cagey bullshit.

Rose seemed to have come out ahead of the others, most likely to let Dave know that they were going to talk about this whole thing now. He really wasn’t looking forward to this.

“Oh, I didn’t know you were here,” she said once she spotted Eridan sitting in the chair still close to her brother. Dave nodded at that, speaking up before Eridan had a chance to.

“Yeah, I was bored as fuck and needed someone to talk to about this shit. Did you say anything to Mom yet by the way?” he asked, Rose nodded.

“I thought you might do something like that, and yes, I told her we needed to talk about something important. They should be out in a few minutes, they’re just cleaning up a bit,” Rose explained, and just like he’d thought she hadn’t actually told them a god damn thing.

“Unless the bosses didn’t actually know these things used to be human I don’t think there’s much they’re gonna do,” Eridan said. Rose started nodding in agreement, and Dave could definitely see where he was coming from. He highly doubted Mom and Bro had no idea, his main issue was why they’d never got around to telling anyone about it. Maybe it was just him, but it kind of seemed like that might be an important thing to know.

“I don’t think much is going to change regardless, but even taking away this new discovery, there’s still the issue of Redglare knowing exactly where we are,” Rose said.

“Fuck, are we going to move the base too? I mean she’s probably known this for a while and hasn’t done shit about it,” Dave asked. He still had no idea how close they were to getting a new place and he knew for sure that finding a new base would be an even bigger hassle.

Before Rose could answer the three heard others starting down the hallway. Dave turned so that he was facing where the hallway, and within a few moments three women were walking into the room. He could tell from the looks on their faces that all three were quite a bit more pensive then they normally would, and Dave realized that he hadn’t asked Rose how everything had gone with Aradia. He figured if there had been any change, either good or bad she would have mentioned it by now though.

“Hello dears, Rose said there was something you needed to talk about?” Mom asked. Feferi walked across the room to put some bottles Dave hadn’t noticed away in a drawer, and Roxy moved to sit down next to him.

“Yeah, what’s up? Also sup Eridan when’d you get here?” Roxy asked as she sat down. The other boy gave her a slight wave, leaning back in his chair as he spoke.

“Couple a hours ago when this kid needed someone to freak out to,” he said, pointing a thumb at Dave when he mentioned him. Dave felt himself glaring at the guy, speaking up to defend himself.

“I wasn’t freaking out dude, I just didn’t see the point in sitting here by myself for hours waiting when I could talk to someone about this and get a second opinion on the matter at hand here,” he insisted.

“And what would that be?” Mom was asking again and Dave realized that no one had actually answered her question the first time. Instead of speaking up himself, he quickly looked over to Rose, figuring she would be the one to want to explain what had gone down. She could probably spin it in a way to make them she not entirely stupid.

“When I went out to get supplies for Aradia there was something outside,” his sister started, perking the interest of the three other women in the room. No one said anything yet though, instead choosing to wait for her to continue.

“It was the Trainer, Dave and I went out to confront it,” she said, and this time their mother cut in.

“You went out without telling anyone? Dave’s still hurt, that could have been a trap,” she started. It was so weird how clear and just not drunk she sounded right now. Dave was pretty sure that she hadn’t actually drunk anything since the night with Aradia, possibly not since he’d been attacked by Redglare. He wasn’t sure how to felt about this, but he didn’t like it.

“I’ll admit that probably wasn’t the smartest move, but as you can see we’re both fine, so if I could continue,” Rose snipped. Their mother was frowning just the slightest bit now but nodded.

“Anyway, Dave and I went out there and spoke to him for a bit.”

“Wait, you mean you just talked to the guy? He didn’t try to attack or nothing?” Roxy asked, clear surprise in her voice. Rose nodded, looking completely calm as if the suggestion of someone doing something like this wouldn’t have made her react in the same exact way if she’d been told it yesterday.

“He had no intention of attacking from what I could tell. He was actually quite amiable, if not a bit awkward. I’ll spare you all the details however, and just get straight to what I consider the two most important facts from this. Dave, let me know if you feel anything else was more important,” she continued. Dave quickly nodded, not expecting her to bring him back into this yet.

“Yeah sure thing, I’m all here for being the fact check on your prioritizing skills. Like, if you managed to come to the conclusion that the 100% most fucking urgent red alert from all of this was that spirits have live action role playing I’m gonna have to step in and let everyone know that this isn’t actually that fucking stupid,” he rambled.

“Wait what? You never mentioned that,” Eridan asked, sitting up in his chair a bit more. Dave wasn’t sure if it was from the absurdity of what he’d just said or if the idea of roleplaying ghosts was just that fucking intriguing to him. He really hoped it was the first one.

“That’s because it’s not actually true,” Rose cut in before Dave could answer, much to her brother’s disappointment. He knew Tavros had said that there wasn’t any, but that would have been a fucking hilarious thing to run with and convince everyone was the truth.

“As I was saying though, the first important fact would be how he found the base. According to him, Redglare was the one to show him, which means she, and who knows how many other spirits, are aware of where we are. That was also why Dave and I let him go without bothering to attack, the chances of her being around still were too high.”

“Oh no! First your home now here, how in the world did she find this place?” Feferi asked, sounding rather distressed by this.

“It’s possible she’s kept an eye on us when we’re going from work to home, she might have been aware of where we lived long before attacking Dave,” Mom said. That made a whole fucking lot of sense to Dave, he wondered why no one had ever thought of that possibility before. He also felt a bit of relief run through him that maybe he hadn’t been the one to compromise their whole home, instead that it had just been compromised all along.

Okay, so that wasn’t much better, but they couldn’t put the blame on him anymore.

“The other important finding is that the Trainer’s name is Tavros Nitram. He was originally the friend of Aradia who was killed by a spirit, leading her to find us. He wanted to apologize for the Spirder’s attack on her,” Rose continued. The room was quite for a moment, and Dave found himself counting down the seconds for the information to sink into everyone else.

“What?! Wait, wait here I think I might be getting something confused. So, was Aradia friends with a spirit, and then he um, died and was then still a spirit and wow that makes no sense,” Roxy started, trailing off a bit at the end. Dave could see that Rose was about to explain when their mother spoke up instead.

“What she means is that when the person known as Tavros Nitram died he ended up becoming a spirit. If I had known it was Aradia’s friend…” the woman trailed off, not saying whatever it was she would have done if she’d been aware of this fact.

“Wait, that’s a thing that can happen? Since when is that a thing that can happen?” Dave found himself relieved that Roxy clearly had no idea about all of this. Not only because that meant there was one more person who’d been just as clueless as he’d been, but because it would have been fucking weird thinking that Roxy’d been keeping something like this from them for so long.

“We were going to tell you,” Feferi started, but before she was able to say anything else she was cut off by Eridan.

“Wait a bloody minute here. Fef, are you sayin you knew about this? What the hell,” he snapped. Dave had to admit he was a bit surprised by this as well. He was beginning to think that only Bro and Mom had any idea.

“I just said we were going to tell you all! We were just waiting for the right time is all,” the girl insisted.

“You couldn’t find the right time in three god damn years?” Eridan pressed. Before Feferi could answer Mom started speaking once again.

“This is something most find very unsettling, so it is difficult to know exactly when to tell someone. It’s not that we didn’t trust you, we’ve just lost good hunters on the basis that they couldn’t continue after finding out the spirit’s origins,” she explained. Eridan was rather quiet at that, seeming to think what she’d said over a bit.

“That’s like, pretty fucked up though, isn’t it?” Dave found himself saying, not really thinking as he continued to speak. “Like, don’t get me wrong I still think they’re monsters and we need to take them out, but keeping that shit secret from people and having them go out and kill things they might not be comfortable with if they knew the truth? ‘These things used to be peoples’ might be a good thing to say before someone goes out and hunts down a bunch,” he finished.

“Uh, yeah I think I’m with Dave on all of that,” Roxy added, quickly expelling some of the fear that had started to bottle up in her brother from speaking up on that.

“I know this sounds wrong to you, but we couldn’t risk potential hunters walking out on us,” Mom insisted.

“I'm sure you had your reasons, but I’m sure you’ll understand if we make sure to let everyone else know about this,” Rose said. Dave hadn’t even considered the idea that they wouldn’t want everyone else to know. To his relief (because fuck he was terrible at keeping secrets he’d end up slipping in five minutes the second Dirk realized something was up, and that was only if Roxy hadn’t spilled first) mom nodded.

“Of course, we wouldn’t make you keep this to yourselves” she told his twin.

“Alright then, good,” Rose said.

“I’m sure you all have lots of questions about all of this, but I need to talk to Bro about Redglare knowing our location. I’m sure you all understand, I’ll be back in a bit if you feel like sticking around,” Mom said, walking out of the base and leaving the group of young adults alone before any of them could get in another word.

It was quiet for a moment, and when someone finally did break the silence it was Feferi with a loud sigh.

“Alright, it’s been a long day, we should probably all start heading in for the night,” she said. It wasn’t actually all that late, the sun had set maybe an hour ago, but Dave figured that all the intense magic shit they were trying with Aradia took it out of a person.

“Is it a good idea to leave Sollux and Aradia here alone? I don’t think we can quite call this place safe anymore,” Rose asked. Dave would have agreed with her too, if he thought they would have actually been alone.

“Man, Rose do you seriously think Mom left? I don’t know where the hell Bro is but he sure as fuck hasn’t been staying at Feferi’s and she said she was gonna go talk to him. They’re probably hiding on the god damn roof or some shit like a couple of not so vaguely fucked up parental ninjas,” he said. Before Rose could think to argue with him Roxy was backing him up.

“Yeah, they’re for sure sticking around here, it’s fine,” she said, and reluctantly Rose nodded.

Feferi ended up driving them back to her house, and Dave went straight to the spare room he’d taken as his own before he could get dragged into the mess that would be talking to Dirk about all of this.

He flopped down on the really fucking huge for a guess bed, debating how long it was he should stay up here before deeming it safe enough to head back down for some food. If he was lucky, maybe Roxy or someone would just bring him something later and he wouldn’t have to leave at all.

Leaning over the edge of his bed, he pulled his laptop up and started fucking around on it, putting his headphones on and turning the music up a bit louder than normal in case Dirk or Rose started freaking out about all that happened today. He had no doubt that they were interrogating Feferi right about now for all she knew on this.

About an hour or so later Dave was almost at that point where his hunger was starting to outweigh his desire to stay in bed. He wasn’t quite there yet though, and was still holding out hope that someone would show up within the next fifteen or twenty minutes it would take him to get to that state.

The sound of tapping was just barely audible over his music, and Dave silently cheered to himself. Hell yeah, laziness won again and Roxy most certainly continued to earn her title of best sibling.

When he took out his headphones he could hear the tapping clearer now, and he was instantly aware of the fact that it definitely wasn’t the sound of someone knocking at his door. It was coming from somewhere behind him and when he turned to look he could see some sort of white pole tapping against the window.

Pushing himself off of the bed, he started over towards the window, not thinking anything besides finding out what that stick was. As he got closer, he was able to follow the pole back with his eyes, noticing it was both white and red, and slowly managing to focus on the figure holding it in the dark.

He felt his stomach drop out from under him as he recognized the figure, its huge, sharp smile and bloody eyes staring back at him from the darkness.

Dave’s body was frozen and he knew on some level that he should be running the fuck out of the room and alerting everyone to the fact that Redglare was here Redglare was fucking back and he needed to do something not just stand there like an idiot.

He was such a fucking idiot.

---

He was freaking the fuck out right now.

The second Karkat had realized he was alone he felt like his body ran cold and he scrambled out of the pipe in what could be described as a slight panic. When he scanned the area, the worry that had already been taking over grew even larger.

“John?” he called, hoping that this was some shitty prank. He couldn’t have fucked up that bad. If John came out laughing at him Karkat would be so fucking relieved, but he would also kill him for being a complete raging asshole.

Nothing like that was happening though and Karkat wasn’t sure what to do. He didn’t want to call out to the other spirit again. It was just, fuck. He hadn’t meant to read his memories or whatever that had been and piss him off. He shouldn’t have even told him about that stupid freak dream. If he’d waited five god damn minutes and thought about it he wouldn’t have, but he hadn’t been thinking. He just started babbling the second he woke up.

Now John had fucked off to who knows where and he was on his own again.

He was so fucking tired of being on his own.

No, you know what? Fuck that shit. Maybe he could do this. He knew what he needed to do to survive now after all, it wasn’t even that much. Just stay the fuck away from hunters and eat when he absolutely had to. Shit, if staying away from hunters turned out to be too hard he could just leave town again, go to a place without any. It wasn’t like he had any ties to any one place, it didn’t matter to him.

Yeah, alright he could do this. He was not going to freak out again. He was done with freaking out like the god damn nervous wreak he is. If John was done with him that he was perfectly fine with that. Frankly, he was surprise he’d stuck around for as long as he had. Certainly the first time someone had suffered through his presence willingly for such an extended amount of time.

Karkat quickly started out of the construction yard. If he wasn’t wanted around he wasn’t going to overstay his welcome. John was too fucking nice to say he wanted him gone anyway.

He wasn’t running away. He was just walking fast.

As he walked he made sure he was going in a direction he didn’t quite know, not exactly wanting to bump into anyone he met already. He was just glad that he’d woken up past dark. It would have been hell having to wait around until he was comfortable enough to leave.

He’d have to find a new place to sleep, at least for the day. He could deal with that once it got closer to sunrise, it probably wasn’t even midnight right now. He had quite a bit of time still to get as far away from here as possible. If hunters wanted to come after him, he didn’t have any more protection. He had no doubt that John was why they’d been leaving him alone for the time being.

Karkat figured he’d been walking for a little over an hour when the crushing feeling that may or may not have been running through him started to lighten. At the very least, he was able to stop staring solely at the ground and actually look where he was going. He pretty much had no idea where he currently was, and he was happy about that.

Yeah, he guessed happy was a way to describe it.

“Excuse me?”

He definitely didn’t jump at that. No, Karkat calmly turned around to address the person standing fucking silently behind him.

It was a woman, maybe just a few years older than him. She seemed a bit confused, a small frown on her pale face. Her hair was short and black, and she was wearing a nice looking red dress. The main thing that Karkat noticed was the very slight way he could see through her, it almost unnoticeable in the darkness.

“Fucking magnet,” he muttered to himself, seeming to confuse her even further.

“What was that?” she asked, and Karkat was already feeling like an even bigger idiot than he normally did.

“Shit, it’s nothing, ignore that. What do you want?” he asked, hoping to change the topic. He also felt that it was a pretty reasonable question, since he had no idea what this spirit wanted with him. She wasn’t giving off an instant crazy vibe like Terezi or Gamzee had, but those two weren’t exactly the most subtle. Either way, he wasn’t too freaked out by her yet.

“Right. I was curious, I have not seen you around before,” she said.

“Yeah no shit,” the reply came out without him thinking. He probably shouldn’t be trying to piss off some random spirit he just met, but he wasn’t in the best mood. He decided that he really shouldn’t be making any enemies though, sighing under his breath before speaking again.

“It’s Karkat, and you are?” he asked.

“Kanaya,” she answered, and Karkat was a bit surprised by the fact that he had no idea who she was. John had talked about lots of spirits, but he couldn’t remember that name ever being mentioned.

“With how calm you are about all of this I feel it would be only safe to assume that you have been dead for long enough to get accustomed to this way of not-life,” Kanaya continued, and Karkat shrugged. He wasn’t sure if calm was exactly the right word, but he wasn’t going to argue it.

“Only a few weeks, I’ve just managed to attract what has to be an abnormally high number of fucking ghosts within those few weeks,” he explained. A slight look of surprise crossed the girl’s face at that.

“How many ‘fucking ghosts’ would that be?” she asked, and Karkat had to stop and think for a moment before answering. Karkat couldn’t help but think that her cussing was strangely funny for some reason. She didn’t seem uncomfortable doing it or anything like that. He supposed she just didn’t seem like the type of person to. The rest of the way she spoke seemed pretty formal, so maybe that was it.

“Seven now, including you,” he said, pretty sure he managed to get everyone. The slight surprise she had shifted into very blatant surprise at his answer.

“That is indeed an abnormally high number of fucking ghosts,” she said. “Is that what you meant by, what was it? Magnet?” she asked, and Karkat tried to keep himself from flinching as he nodded.

“Yeah, but whatever. I’ve mostly gotten over the shock of meeting over spirits. Other parts of this, not so much, but I don’t think that’s strange,” he said, Kanaya seeming to agree with him on that.

“I doubt it is. Since you’ve met so many of us already, could I ask you something?” she asked. Karkat nodded. He’d been rather against meeting other spirits when he’d been with John, but right now he was just thankful for the distraction.

He did not need to be thinking about how he’d just fucked up with one of those spirits he’d met.

“Have you seen someone named Sollux recently? He wears a pair of strange, colorful glasses,” she asked, and Karkat wasn’t surprised that he had seen the person she was looking for. He could vaguely remember John mentioning a few other spirits he hadn’t met yet, but he figured the odds were starting to slip in his favor that he’d met most ghosts in this general vicinity.

He doubted there could really be that many in one place. What with the hunters trying to take them out any chance they got and the fact that more ghosts meant more murders which would probably start to get noticed after not too long.

“I’ve met him yeah, but that was a little while ago, like maybe a week? I don’t know, it’s hard to keep track of days. He was looking for someone then, was that you?” he asked. He realized that he’d never asked John who it was Sollux had been talking about. He’d been calling the person some weird nickname, or he guessed it was a nickname, especially if it turned out he had been looking for Kanaya.

“That was most likely me. I have been attempting to get in touch with him for a while now,” she said, and Karkat nodded.

“Well sorry about that, but I have no fucking clue where he is,” he told her.

“He isn’t usually this hard to find, I’m starting to get worried,” she muttered. Karkat was sure it was more to herself than to him, but he took it as an opportunity to continue the conversation anyway.

“Do you think hunters might have gotten him or something? One of them was killed a while ago, they might be out for revenge or something,” he said. That seemed to perk Kanaya’s interest, the girl returning her focus to him.

“They were? By who?” she asked, sounding concerned, and Karkat didn’t blame her. It was still freaking him out a bit, and he wasn’t the one with a missing friend.

“A spirit named Vriska,” he answered, the concern dropping off of her face and replaced with a rather exasperated look.

“I suppose I shouldn’t have needed to ask,” she said, sounding just as fed up with this information as she looked.

“Probably not,” Karkat said. Every new interaction he had concerning Vriska just put him more and more in the mindset that she was very possibly the most insane one around. Kanaya sighed, seeming to think over what she’d just found out.

“I should most likely go and make sure she hasn’t done anything too idiotic or dangerous this time,” she muttered.

“I think Terezi’s keeping an eye on her, John too maybe,” he said, not upset at all mentioning John again. He wasn’t thinking about him at all or how he’d managed to fuck up literally the first friendship he’d had in his entire existence, not even life at this point.

Kanaya didn’t seem to notice and instead seemed relieved at the news.

“Well, she should be fine then without me stepping in then. Thank you for letting me know about all of this, it appears I have been out of the loop on a few things,” she said, and Karkat just shrugged.

“It’s whatever. You don’t seem batshit insane like most of the spirit’s I’ve met so far, so that makes it not as horrible talking to you as it is some of the others,” he told her. Kanaya smiled at that and okay yeah Karkat decided he liked her.

“Not being bat shit insane is something that is rather rare among our kind, I will admit,” she said, a slight amused tone to her voice.

“Yeah no kidding,” he said.

“Well, I really would like to keep looking for my friend, but you are welcome to come with me and help, if you wish to, that is,” she offered. Karkat found himself nodding despite his whole spiel to himself earlier about doing this shit on his own. Technically, he was helping her out, so it didn’t count.

“Yeah sure, I’m not doing jack shit,” he said, starting to follow Kanaya down the street. “So, do you have any idea where he might be or are we just mindlessly wandering hoping we run into him? If that’s the case I might actually be some help, that shit tends to happen around me,” he felt like he was starting to ramble and managed to shut himself up so that she could actually answer his question.

“I’m checking the few places I have not looked yet, and afterwards I suppose I will start double checking the places he goes most, although your magnetic abilities might come in handy either way,” she told him.

“Oh, alright, that makes sense,” he said. The two were quiet for a few moments, and Karkat tried to think of something to get a conversation going again. He wasn’t exactly in the mood to be left alone with his thoughts now that he had something to distract him.

“So, how long have you been a spirit?” he asked, figuring that seemed like a pretty safe question to ask so far.

“I died in 1956,” she told him. Karkat felt his eyebrows rise slightly in surprise.

“Damn,” he muttered.

“It seems like you’ve met both Terezi and Vriska, it’s really not that big of a deal compared to those two,” Kanaya said, and Karkat nodded because he supposed she did have a point with that.

“Well yeah, but those two are like so old it almost starts to lose its meaning. What’s three hundred compared to four hundred compared to six or however fucking old those two are. What you’ve got is still pretty impressive,” he said.

“I guess when you look at it like that you have a point,” she said with a nod.

“I mean, I was impressed when John said he’d been dead for ten years, so it really doesn’t take a lot with me,” Karkat added on. Kanaya chuckled a bit at that, turning to head down some skeevy alley as she did.

“John isn’t all that old, but he is impressive in other ways,” she said, and Karkat found himself nodding absently in agreement.

“What about this Sollux guy? I never got a chance to ask him,” he asked, surprised when Kanaya frowned a bit at the question.

“I’m not sure he even knows. He first showed up maybe four or five years ago, but he claims not to remember dying,” she explained.

“Is that not normal? I might not have talked to enough people about this but that sounds pretty fucking weird to me,” Karkat asked. The only thing about all of this that he had trouble remembering what only right after he died, and that was probably from the panic. He definitely remembered that something happened though, and he most certainly remembered fucking dying.

Even if he didn’t remember dying though, he supposed he could have figured that out pretty easily. It wasn’t exactly sudden or unexpected.

“No, you’re right, it’s not normal. At least, I haven’t met anyone else who can’t remember dying. It is a rather important event to forget,” Kanaya told him.

Karkat wasn’t quite sure where they were heading, but he figured Kanaya knew where to look. He figured that he wasn’t actually much help when it actually came down to it, but he wasn’t going to point that out right now.

“Where was that last place you saw him?” he asked instead, even though he highly doubted she hadn’t checked wherever that was at least a few times if she’d been looking for him since the time when Karkat had first met Sollux.

“A bit more downtown from here, he tends to hang around a more populated area for reasons I just don’t understand, but I’ve already looked there multiple times. I’d rather not go back until later tonight when it starts to die down again,” she explained. Karkat nodded, he definitely understood not wanting to be around other people. Kanaya could probably go mostly unnoticed. If you weren’t looking directly at her you probably wouldn’t see the slight transparence to her, but he did not fault her for being cautious.

Karkat debated for quite a while on whether or not to make the suggestion he was thinking of. He didn’t want to be dragged into more spirit drama bullshit, and he also would prefer not seeing anyone who could ask him what he wasn’t doing with John right now, but it had worked when he’d been searching for someone. At the very least, he had no doubt that she could tell them if Sollux had been double killed or not.

“Have you tried asking Terezi? I don’t know if she really knows the guy but I was told to go to her when I was looking for someone and it worked so yeah, just throwing that out there,” he said after a moment.

“I haven’t, although I can see why that would be a reasonable suggestion. Who told you to go to her for help?” Kanaya asked.

“Gamzee,” Karkat told her. The other spirit stopped walking to look back at him, a clear look of surprise on her face from that answer.

“You really have met a lot of us,” she commented after a moment, and Karkat couldn’t do anything but shrug. She was right, after all, and he wasn’t too happy with this fact.

“I know. So, is that a dumb as fuck idea and I should just shut up and let you handle this or what?” he asked. Kanaya seemed to genuinely think this question over before answering, and he was pretty sure she was going to say that he should just leave it to her until she spoke.

“No, I think that could be a good idea. Even if she doesn’t know where Sollux might be I could ask her for an update on this Vriska situation,” she said. Karkat felt himself perk up at that, not expecting her to go along with this so readily.

“Oh, alright then. Do you know the way to her weird idiotic treehouse, because I have no clue how to get back there,” he asked. To his relief Kanaya nodded and started off more decisively in another direction.

They didn’t talk a lot of the way, but the amount they did was nice enough. Karkat was tempted to tell her that she’s already leagues and bounds ahead of everyone else in the competition for the ‘least asshole of a ghost’ award. Karkat was included in the contestants. He was nowhere close to winning.

Finally Karkat figured they’d managed to reach the spot, because if he was honest he could not tell one of these damn trees from another. Kanaya had stopped walking though and was staring up a specific tree that Karkat thought was sort of familiar maybe.

“Terezi, sorry to drop by unannounced but I could use your help,” the other spirit called up. Karkat expected the other girl to appear in front of them with no warning and scare the fuck out of him like usual, but after a few moments that failed to happen.

“Maybe she didn’t hear you?” he suggested.

“I’ll be right back,” Kanaya said, disappearing from sight. Before Karkat could wonder where she’d gone she was back, a small frown on her face.

“She’s not here right now,” she told him.

“Oh, well shit. Sorry about that, I’m out of ideas,” he said, shoulders slumping a bit. Kanaya didn’t seem too bothered by this though, which Karkat guessed helped a bit.

“I suppose we could wait for her to come back, although you had said she was keeping an eye on Vriska?” Kanaya asked. He nodded, remembering that fact and okay, that made sense that she wasn’t here right now if she was still trailing the other spirit.

“Yeah, she was apparently doing some weird stalking thing on her earlier today. I forgot about that, I have no idea how long she’s planning to keep that up,” he said.

He wondered if John had gone to hang out with Vriska again after leaving him alone. If he had, Karkat wasn’t sure how comfortable he’d be going to see Terezi trailing them. Sure, she didn’t want to make herself known to Vriska from what he could tell, but he’d rather not chance running into John right now.

“I suppose we could go see if she is still with them, but where Vriska lies is quite a long walk away and she might not even be there right now,” Kanaya said. Karkat found himself nodding, hoping that he could convince her not to go without actually seeming like he was trying to do that. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, he just didn’t want shit to be awkward. He’d be perfectly fucking fine. It was more for John’s sake than his own, when it came down to it.

“Maybe we should just wait here then, she’s got to come back eventually. I don’t see how interesting it could be following those two around for at least a day could be,” he said. Kanaya raised a thin eyebrow at him and Karkat wasn’t sure what he’d said to cause that reaction.

“Those two?” she asked, and oh okay that was apparently it.

“I’m pretty sure John’s hanging out with her right now, but I could be wrong. I’m not sure where he is,” he said, hoping she wouldn’t push the subject any further.

“Were you with him recently?” she asked. Karkat managed to keep himself from groaning at the question and nodding.

“Yeah, he was helping me out with adjusting and shit, but I’m pretty fine now,” he said. Kanaya seemed to take that as an answer, nodding and sitting down at the base of the tree.

“Alright, I suppose we are waiting for her,” she said before looking up at Karkat again “Or I am, you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to,” the spirit added on. Karkat shrugged and sat down a bit away from her.

“Like I said, I’ve got fuck all to do right now. Unless you want me to leave, you can just tell me it’s cool,” he said. Kanaya was smiling at him as she shook her head.

“I’d appreciate the company, it’s fine,” she said, a small bit of relief coursing through the boy. He started picking at the grass, every so often some of the blades going straight through his fingers instead of being grabbed like he wanted them to be.

“So…” he muttered, feeling like they should be talking or something to pass the time. He still wasn’t all that good with the whole human interaction stitch. Wasn’t really something he had to do much before, and when he did it was mostly with people who pissed him the fuck off. Kanaya was surprisingly not doing that, so he was kind of at a loss here.

“Yes?” she answered, having seemed to take that as Karkat starting some sort of thought.

“You think he might have actually been killed? Like, again, I guess,” he asked, just going with the first thing to pop into his head. Kanaya frowned before shaking her head.

“No, I’d be surprised if he was killed. From what I can tell, those hunters haven’t ever attempted to attack him before, unless of course he’s forgetting those events as well,” she said. A look of surprise fell across Karkat’s face at that.

“Seriously? Never attacked? I was almost killed by one of those fucking psychos almost instantly. What’s that asshole’s secret?” he asked.

“I couldn’t tell you, since I have no idea myself,” she answered.

“Fair enough,” he said.

Conversation started to come a bit easier after that. Karkat told her about the two times he’d been attacked by hunters already, and Kanaya talked about her most recent run in with one. She said it wasn’t too interesting, and she had mainly tried to escape as soon as she could, which ended up being quite soon. Even still it sounded much more impressive than Karkat’s flailing panic and needing to be saved constantly.

The sun was starting to rise and Karkat was thinking that Terezi wasn’t going to come back at all tonight when a loud voice groaned from behind them.

“Uggg, what do you want now?” Terezi asked, walking into the clearing. Karkat was surprised to see her actually walking instead of appearing out of nowhere like a lunatic. Before either spirit could answer she fell on the ground in front of them, head face down in the ground. Karkat was pretty sure she was being overdramatic at this point.

“Hey Kanaya,” she mumbled into the grass.

“Hello Terezi. Are you alright?” Kanaya asked, not sounding phased by this at all.

“How can fun be so exhausting Kanaya? Also I think I just pissed off like half of the hunters but yeah I’m good,” she said, starting to push herself up again. Once Karkat could see her face he could see that the usual large smile she wore was still on her face, and that combined with what she’d just said unsettled the fuck out of him.

He found himself sharing an uncertain glance with Kanaya, who looked just as worried.

Terezi started laughing at their expressions and that was not helping at all.

He didn’t even want to know what happened.

Chapter Text

“I… How exactly did you manage that?” Kanaya asked once she’d managed to get the words, voicing Karkat’s exact thoughts as well. Terezi managed to calm her laughing enough to talk to them again, which was very much appreciated. When he looked her over now, she really didn’t seem anywhere near as tired as she’d implied with her dramatic entry, and Karkat felt himself right in assuming she’d been playing it up to worry them.

“I was just messing with them a little, it really wasn’t a big deal okay.” She started. Karkat wasn’t sure he believed her at all, and Kanaya’s face echoed that sentiment. Terezi sighed at their reactions. “Relax, I didn’t do anything too dumb, not after the stunt Vriska pulled,” she insisted. When you got down to it that explained all of jack shit, but it wasn’t like they could make her tell them. Kanaya was frowning slightly as she nodded.

“Are you sure? I don’t think any close contact with hunters would be advised at all with the current environment I’ve only just heard about. Although I suppose you wouldn’t need to worry as much as some others,” Kanaya said. Terezi waved her hand as she answered, although her face was a bit more serious than it had been before.

“Yeah, I think it’s fine. I needed to let them know something, don’t worry about it,” she said, the smile coming back as she continued. “So! What brings you all here? Also, I see you met the new guy,” she said, changing the subject and gesturing at Karkat as she mentioned him.

“That I have. It was actually his idea to come here,” Kanaya said.

“She’s looking for Sollux. I figured it worked for me so you know,” Karkat explained, shrugging a bit at the end. Terezi frowned slightly at the other spirits name, nodding in understanding.

“Yeah, Mr. Appleberry Blast hasn’t been around much lately,” she said.

“I’m getting worried. I was supposed to see him quite some time ago now. He isn’t usually this hard to find,” Kanaya added. Terezi sighed under her breath before answering.

“Yeah, I totally get it, and I wish I could help you out with finding him, but I think he just needs some time right now,” the other spirit said, surprising them both.

“Did something happen?” Kanaya asked.

“Kinda?”

“What kind of answer is kinda? Either something happened or it didn’t,” Karkat said, wishing he wasn’t getting drawn into this, but at this point it was too late. He was pretty much committed to finding out what had happened to Sollux now, even if he didn’t know the other spirit all that well. Terezi rolled her eyes at him as she answered.

“Fine then yes, I guess something happened. I’d like to tell you, but it’s not really my place. He’s going to be fine though. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer until he’s back. I was trying to work on that too tonight actually, so we’ll see if it pays off,” she said, and reluctantly Kanaya nodded.

“If you insist, I suppose I will just wait until he shows up again,” she said, a bit of a defeated tone to her voice. Terezi gave her a sad smile as she nodded.

“Yeah, sorry I can’t do much else, but it’s cool. He’ll be fine,” the other spirit told her. Before anyone else could say anything she turned towards Karkat, surprising him.

“So, what’s with you? Lose John again or something? How’d you end up with Kanaya over here and finally away from that dork?” she asked him. Karkat glared at her, turning away as he answered.

“I didn’t lose him! Maybe I just felt like being on my fucking own for once, is that a god damn crime?” he snapped.

“And so you’re hanging out with Kanaya because?” Terezi asked in a flat voice. Karkat shrugged, glancing over at the spirit in question quickly as he answered.

“I don’t know? She’s not completely horrible and I thought I could help? I mean I was wrong about that but whatever. I don’t see why it’s any of your business,” he said. Terezi shrugged, not seeming all that concerned with it.

“It’s not, I was just curious. No need to get all defensive,” she told him. Before Karkat could tell her on no uncertain terms that he was not getting defensive, he just didn’t like people prying into his shit, Kanaya started speaking.

“I don’t think you were wrong about being able to help. I wouldn’t have come to Terezi and found out that it is pretty much useless to keep looking if you had not suggested it,” she told him.

“I guess? If you want to look at it that way then sure,” Karkat shrugged, still not believing that he’d managed to help her all that much. He figured that she was just trying to spare his feelings, but he wasn’t going to argue over this.

The sun was nearly up now and Terezi made another dramatic show of slumping to the ground.

“I take it you’ll want to stay here for the day, since you don’t like to go out in the sun?” she asked Karkat, and a bit reluctantly he nodded. It wasn’t that he wanted to stay here, not at all. She was right about him not liking to move about during the day, and while he could probably just hide out in some other part of the forest, he knew it was much safer for him around these strong as fuck spirits. Of course, the fact that Terezi apparently just pissed off a bunch of hunters wasn’t all that reassuring, but it was still probably better than being alone.

“You can stay too Kanaya if you want,” Terezi said, turning towards the other spirit.

“Thank you. I think I will take you up on that offer. I’ve been looking for quite a while now and it would be nice to be able to get some rest in,” she said.

“Alrighty then! Meet you both in the tree,” Terezi declared, disappearing from sight before anyone else was able to get in another word.

“I thought she was tired, what the fuck,” Karkat muttered under his breath. Kanaya sighed as she pushed himself up off of the grass.

“To be quite honest I’m not sure if she can actually get tired,” she said, before disappearing as well. Karkat grumbled to himself as he made his way up the tree, wondering how long it took for someone to figure the teleporting shit out. He really hoped it wouldn’t take too long, because being the only one without those kinds of powers was getting old fast.

“Hey, you’re getting better at that,” Terezi told him as he made his way into the decrepit treehouse. “I mean, you’re still really bad, but it’s like, slightly not as pathetic,” she added on, causing Karkat to roll his eyes.

“Why the hell does being a ghost require climbing so many god damn trees?” he muttered, moving to sit in the corner that looked the least like it was going to collapse beneath him.

“Because you’re finally doing something worthwhile,” Terezi told him with certainty.

“I highly fucking doubt that but you know what, sure, why the fuck not,” he said, not finding it in himself to fight over this. He wasn’t super exhausted, but he wasn’t in the most talkative mood. He never was, but that didn’t matter.

“I haven’t noticed much of an increase in the amount of trees climbed after death,” Kanaya commented.

“You two can chart the percentages of trees climbed during life verses death, but I’m going to sleep,” Terezi told them, lying down on the old wooden floor.

“You are?” Karkat asked, rather surprised. He hadn’t thought she was actually tired, that just didn’t seem like a thing that could happen to her. There was still blood leaking from her eyes when she closed them, and Karkat wasn’t sure he would ever be able to get used to that.

“Yes, I am. Teleporting all over the place all night can actually wear even the most awesome of spirits down a little bit,” she told him.

“Well, why were you doing that?” he asked, but Terezi just help up a hand as she answered, still not bothering to open her eyes and look at him.

“Shush, I’m sleeping now,” she told him, rolling over to face the wall. Karkat opened his mouth to say something before closing it and deciding that it just wasn’t worth it. He didn’t even want to talk to her, so it was fine. He was definitely better off not knowing whatever inane shenanigans she’d gotten up to with freaking hunters of all things.

Kanaya chucked slightly as him, and he groaned, leaning back against the worn wall. He wasn’t sure if it was okay to talk with the other spirit trying to sleep, and he wasn’t even sure what they would talk about. He decided that if she wanted to say something then she would. If not he wasn’t going to go out of his way to start a conversation.
After a few moments Kanaya shifted before speaking to him in a low voice as not to disturb Terezi any.

“She’s certainly interesting, isn’t she,” she said, gesturing the slightest amount towards the sleeping spirit. Karat shrugged, rolling his eyes as he answered.

“If by interesting you mean crazy as fuck,” he said, nearly forgetting to keep himself quiet.

“I suppose that is a way to describe her as well,” she said. Karkat wondered if he should try to sleep too, but he wasn’t all that tired. He wasn’t exactly super awake, but he didn’t need to sleep, and he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to. Maybe he would in another couple of hours when it was later in the day, so that he wouldn’t wake up so early, but just not right now.

After a bit of time Kanaya told him that she was going to attempt to get some rest as well. It wasn’t long afterwards that she fell asleep and Karkat figured he should probably try to pass out as well. He closed his eyes and attempted to curl up in the corner like he had the last time he’d slept here, but it was clear after an hour or so that it wasn’t working.

He wasn’t tired and he didn’t even like sleeping and he didn’t want another weird dream vision to end up happening or something.

He didn’t want to think about that though. No one else was awake and he couldn’t fucking sleep and he was bored damn it.

He ended up passing the time by scratching into the wall, trying to figure out how to keep him hand solid enough to actually do that. His fingers ended up going through it more often than not, but he thought he managed to make a bit of process in controlling it. At the very least he was scratching the wall more than he’d been at the start.

Terezi was the first to wake up, pushing herself off the floor and looking surprised when she saw that he was still awake.

“Huh, I was sure you’d pass out. It’s almost night now, isn’t it?” she asked. Karkat shrugged, not looking away from where he was messing with the wall.

“I wasn’t tired, and yeah it’s like nearly sundown,” he told her.

“So, what really happened?” she asked, and this time he turned to look at her, irritation clear on his face.

“What are you talking about?” he asked back. He had an idea on what she was talking about, but he still wasn’t in the mood to talk about that. Fuck, he’d rather talk about the hunters than this. According to Terezi that was something she’d done last night, so hell maybe he’ll go ask that sword wielding maniac why he hadn’t killed him earlier. He’d be just as comfortable doing that as continuing on with this conversation.

Okay, he was being stupid now. That was a horrible idea and he was not going to do it.

“You know what I’m talking about, don’t play dumb. Did you two dorks get into a fight or something?” Terezi asked.

“No, nothing happened alright? It’s none of your fucking business,” he snapped.

“Bluh, you are so overdramatic. Maybe I’ll go ask John what happened,” she said. Karkat shrugged, trying to look like he didn’t care, because he didn’t. If she wanted to go talk to him then that was fine. He’d rather that not everyone knew he had freaky mind scanning dream powers but it seemed like keeping things from Terezi was a lost cause in the long run.

Before he could tell her that he didn’t care what she did Kanaya woke up. The other spirit pushed herself up and looked at the two of them.

“Am I interrupting something?” she asked, Karkat quickly shaking his head.

“No, I was just leaving,” he said, standing up and just barely remembering to crouch so that he didn’t hit his head. He still had no idea if it’d actually hit or if it’d go right through, but either way he didn’t want to find out in front of other people.

“Well, alright then,” she said, Terezi grumbling something about dumb dramatic boys, but he ignored them both. It wasn’t that he was purposefully trying to ignore Kanaya, he just needed to concentrate so that he didn’t fall off of the tree as he made his way down. Sure, it probably wouldn’t hurt or anything but he’d rather not have anyone else see that.

“Holy shit there you are!”

Karkat’s dream of getting to the ground in a halfway dignified manner was shattered when his grip slipped due to the surprise from someone yelling, causing him to fall the last two feet to the ground.

“What the fuck?” he muttered as he pushed himself back to his feet. He swore he could hear Terezi laughing from up in her god damn tree house. He didn’t even know how she could see him through the fucking wood but he didn’t doubt that she managed it.

“Dude, what the hell? I thought you might have gotten attacked by some hunters or something! Why’d you run off like that? To go hang out with Terezi no less,” John was bombarding him with questions and it took Karkat a moment to process everything he was saying. He didn’t have any idea why the other spirit was there but he ignored that for now to actually talk and not just stand there looking like an idiot.

“I fucking swear I did not have any intention of hanging out with fucking Terezi of all people, this just sort of happened. I ran into someone named Kanaya and she was looking for that Sollux guy we met a while ago so we came here to ask if she knew anything. I don’t fucking know okay these things just seem to happen to me,” he rambled. John didn’t do anything but stare at him for a moment, looking rather surprised.

“Wow, I really can’t take my eyes off of you without you running into someone new, can I?” he asked, sounding genuinely impressed.

“I fucking guess not,” he said, trying to figure out what John was even doing here because there was no way the other spirit had been looking for him. He’d left first, after all.

“Is Kanaya still around? I haven’t seen her in a while,” John asked. Karkat pointed up towards the treehouse as he answered.

“Up in the shitty tree,” he said, John nodding.

“Oh, alright. But why didn’t you wait for me to get back or something first before leaving? I was worried man, things have been weird with the hunters and you’re not exactly the strongest spirit around,” he asked. Karkat crossed his arms and glared at the other spirit as he answered.

“You were gone when I woke up! I figured you’d had enough and decided to leave,” Karkat told the other spirit straight out because he was very fucking confused on how this did not seem to be the case. John frowned at him, looking caught off guard by what Karkat had said.

“Why would I do that? That makes no sense,” he asked.

“How does it not make sense?” Karkat asked back, because he honestly couldn’t see how he was being unreasonable here. John flailed his arms around as he tried to explain.

“It just doesn’t! Why would I be an asshole and just abandon you like that? I mean, we’re friends right?” he asked. Karkat shrugged, because he really didn’t have much experience to go on with the whole friend thing here.

“I guess so? But then where in the world were you?”

“I just went to go see if maybe Vriska knew anything about the weird dream thing. I meant to get back before you woke up but she’s um, she’s very good at monopolizing time,” John explained. Karkat couldn’t do anything but stare at the other boy for a moment. Alright, that actually made sense he supposed. Maybe he’d jumped to conclusions with the whole abandoning him thing but fuck it wouldn’t have been the first time something like that had happened.

Before Karkat could think of something to say John started laughing.

“You really thought I just left? You need to relax more, I’m not that mean, I swear,” he said as he tried to get himself back under control. Karkat frowned at the boy, quickly managing to find his words now.

“Fuck you, I’m perfectly relaxed. I just didn’t see the harm in going off and helping someone if you’d already left,” he tried to defend himself. John rolled his eyes, but he didn’t seem to actually be irritated or anything.

“Alright, if you say so,” he said, a small smile still on his face.

“Aw, aren’t you two cute?”

Karkat felt himself cringe at Terezi’s voice, having nearly forgotten that she was just a few feet away in a tree, most definitely listening to their every word. Looking back over at John, his smile had turned into a frown, and a look of irritation had fallen over his face.

Both Terezi and Kanaya appeared around them next, and he was sure this was going to turn into some dumb argument and teasing that he did not want in the slightest.

He didn’t want it, but he was starting to get used to it, and he could deal with it.

---

Redglare was tapping on his fucking window with her cane, staring straight at him through the glass and he couldn’t move. Part of it was because he was freaked out, but he also didn’t know if it was a good idea to turn his back to her. Okay, that was definitely a bad idea. Maybe if he just tried to back out of the room very slowly without breaking eye contact…

The spirit frowned as he started to inch back, banging her cane on the window with more force. Dave stayed right the fuck where he was at that, not wanting to piss her off any further.

“Open the window!” her muffled voice called to him, and he instantly shook his head. Oh hell no, he wasn’t that god damn stupid. He could see her huff in the darkness, and when he blinked (why did he blink, blinking was such a dumb move) the spot outside was empty.

“Rude, coolkid.”

“Fucking shit!” he yelled, jumping away from the bed where Redglare was now sitting. When he regained his bearings a bit she was laughing at him.

“Relax, I didn’t kill you last time did I?” she said, twisting herself around so that she was now sitting cross legged. Dave stole a quick glance at the door, wondering how fast she’d be able to get over to him and rip his throat out if he tried to scream.

Probably much faster than it’d take anyone to get in here to help him, that was for sure.

“Ugh, you’re so quiet! Come on, you were actually fun when you talked,” she complained. Dave frowned ever so slightly, glaring at the spirit across the room.

“Sorry I don’t feel like entertaining crazy fuck murder ghosts,” he snapped. She simply smiled wider however, and this was starting to actually piss Dave off. Yeah, he got that he was most likely going to die this time, but there wasn’t jack shit he could do about that. He was fucking cornered, might as well get angry about it. Put up some sort of a fight instead of lying down and just accepting his fate.

“Alright, now we’re getting somewhere,” she said excitedly.

“How the fuck did you see inside here? I get figuring out where the house is from watching us but how the hell did you see past the void shield?” he asked, ignoring what she’d said.

“I’m sorry, did you get the impression that I see with my eyes?” she mocked.

“So the shields mean jack shit to you,” he said, realizing just how much damage this spirit could do if she wanted to. She could kill them all in their fucking sleep and there wasn’t a fucking thing any of them could do about it. He didn’t know why she hadn’t bothered to already. Maybe she was going to do that shit now, but she thought it’d be more fun if they were awake.

“You’re starting to get it, but look, don’t worry about it! I’m not here to hurt anyone,” she said. Dave believed exactly none of that, and took the smallest step towards the door, trying to make it seem like he was just shifting a bit. Redglare didn’t seem to take any notice, instead turning her attention to the laptop Dave had left on the bed.

“Hey, what were you doing anyway?” she asked, grabbing the computer and moving a finger on the trackpad to wake it up. Dave found himself starting towards her to take it away before he realized what the fuck he was doing and stopped. Now he was even further from the door god he was an idiot.

“Whoa now, I get you’re an evil spirit and all but have you ever heard of privacy,” he complained instead. Dave was pretty sure she rolled her eyes at that and good god was that terrifying.

“Oh come on! Don’t be such a baby. You were telling me about your comics before, I want to see them,” she said, clicking on something. Dave couldn’t see the screen from this angle and that bothered the fuck out of him. He was aware he should be more concerned with how he might die at any moment but this was a more tangible issue to get irritated about.

“You lost comic privileges when you nearly torn my fucking arms off. Besides you’re blind you can’t even see them,” he argued. He realized he was arguing with a being that could most likely kill him in an instant about a shitty comic he would made in MS paint in five minutes tops, but if he was going to die he might as well die standing his ground over something. Even if it was something unbelievably stupid.

“So rude coolkid. I can still enjoy fine art,” she complained.

“Red- fuck!” he yelped, Redglare now right in front of him, practically shoving the laptop in his face.

“That's not my name, now show me your comics,” she demanded. Dave reluctantly took the laptop from her, opening up the page with his comics. Good god this was so fucked up. This was ten different levels of fucked up and he handed the laptop back to her with his shitty web comic up and he was going to die.

“I know it’s not. It’s Terezi,” he said, trying anything to distract himself from just how insane this whole situation is.

“Terezi Pyrope at your service! So, Tavros told you?” she said, leaning forward and Jesus fuck why did she just lick his computer? Before he could either recoil in disgust or answer her question she was laughing again.

“I can’t believe you weren’t going to let me see your comics, my heart would have hurt from not experiencing this. The colors are absolutely delicious. I think you are the real cruel one here for even considering doing that to someone,” she said, clicking over to look at another one. Once again she licked his laptop and he was pretty god damn sure she didn’t actually have any real problems seeing so this was almost certainly just to mess with him.

“Would you fucking stop licking my computer and just kill me already. Also yeah, he told us your name and that you were the one who showed him where our base is,” he said. Terezi was giggling at the comics as she answered.

“I already said I’m not here to kill anybody, you need to relax coolest kid,” she told him.

“Relax? How the fuck am I supposed to relax when I’m all like some sort of tiny mouse who was sitting in its hole, perfectly fucking happy with its simple mouse life when a god damn snake materializes into the mouse’s safe space with no regards for the poor thing’s feelings. Only instead of just attacking and eating the cornered mouse and ending its misery the snake decides to look at the comics the mouse was working on and flirt with it,” he rambled. He was very aware that he was rambling but he couldn’t stop himself.

“Psh, don’t flatter yourself. I mean, I guess you’re pretty cute? But don’t you think you’re a bit young for me?” Redglare asked, seeming to completely ignore the rest of his brilliant snake and mouse analogy.

“This is not happening. Please kill me I don’t even care anymore. I just want this to end,” he groaned into his hands.

“So overdramatic,” she mocked. Before Dave could tell her he was being the exact right amount of dramatic for this situation the spirit sat up straight. “Oh.” She said, her large smile slowly starting to come back.

“Oh what? Jesus fuck stop smiling like that did you just remember that you’re gonna kill me what the fuck?” he asked. Terezi didn’t answer, and she didn’t need to, what was going on becoming painfully aware to Dave as the sound of someone knocking on his door started.

“Hey Dave? I gots you some food. Shit’s calm now so you can come downstairs if ya want,” Roxy’s voice came through the door and he saw the doorknob start to turn fuck.

“Roxy fuck no!” he yelled, looking between the door and Redglare to see if it was safe to flash over and force the door shut. Redglare was still smiling at him and before he could decide his sister had opened the door and took half a step inside.

“What’s up?” she asked, looking confused at Dave standing stone still in the center of his room. She started looking around the room and the plate of chicken nuggets and fries she’d been holding fell to the floor when she spotted Redglare back sitting on his bed. Dave wasn't sure when she'd flashed back, but he was pretty sure she did it just to have the dramatic reveal.

Dave did not expect the look of anger that fell over the Roxy's face, or for her to ball her hand into a fist and run towards the spirit.

The next thing he saw was Roxy being pressed against the wall by Redglare, the door shut again and he didn’t even know when she’d have time to do that.

Not thinking anymore, Dave grabbed the first thing by him, running towards the two to try to beat Redglare away from the other girl.

He blinked again (why the fuck did he keep doing that his body was working against him) and Redglare had grabbed the laptop out of his hands and was placing it back on the bed. She was away from Roxy though so he’d count that as a victory.

“Hey, were you actually planning to smash me in the head with this? Do you have any idea what I’d do for something like this when I was your age? Don’t go swinging it around all willy-nilly,” Redglare chastised.

“Dave the fuck?” Roxy was asking and Dave couldn’t do anything but shrug and gesture towards the spirit as he desperately tried to answer.

“She can see through void shields and keeps flirting with me,” he managed. Redglare groaned again, running a hand through her hair.

“I told you I’m not flirting with you!” the spirit argued.

“Okay then she can see through void shields and is here to kill us all,” he corrected. This time she had to muffle a small yell into Dave’s pillow.

“I’m not here to kill anyone either! You are impossible,” she insisted.

Roxy grabbed the clock hanging on the wall near her and rushed the spirit again, who teleported to the other side of the room this time instead of pinning the girl. Roxy spun around and threw the clock this time, which ended up going right through Redglare.

“Dave get the others I’ll keep her busy,” Roxy insisted. Terezi sighed dramatically and Dave was shaking his head because like fuck was he going to leave her alone with insane psycho ghost.

“No fuck that, she’ll kill you,” he argued.

“Dave this isn’t a joke go,” the older girl fought back. Before Dave could say anything else Terezi started speaking again.

“Okay, this is getting nowhere. I’m moving this along,” she said, disappearing from sight. Dave scanned the room but she wasn’t inside anymore.

“Oh fuck where’d she go?” Roxy asked.

“Fuck if I know,” he answered.

“Why does she keep coming after you?”

“I have no god damn clue man if you find out please let me know,” he said. Roxy was about to say something else when she was cut off by the sound of a scream from somewhere else in the house. It took half a second for Dave to realize that had been Feferi and he and Roxy couldn’t move for a moment.

“There she is,” Dave said at last, Roxy nodding and the two quickly running out of the room towards the source of the sound.

It took much longer than either sibling would have liked to reach the room the others were in, making their way through the large house. When they entered Feferi seemed to have gotten a hold of herself, a large butcher knife in her hand since her usual weapon wasn’t in sight. Dirk and Rose were standing back to back, Dirk with his sword and Rose with her wands. All three’s eyes landed on Dave and Roxy as they came to a stop.

“What’s she doing in here?” Dirk asked, looking directly at Dave as he did so.

“She can see through void shields,” he answered. Other than that he had no clue because she was saying she didn’t want to kill them and she could have easily done it by now so he was so fucking confused.

“Did she attack you guys?” Roxy asked, and Rose shakes her head.

“No, she just appeared in front of Feferi and then disappeared again before any of us could get a hit on her,” she explained. Everyone kept looking around the room but not moving much, attempting to keep an eye out for the fast spirit.

“Was she with you two before?” Feferi asked. Dave nodded as Roxy answered.

“She was in Dave’s room when I went to give him food,” she said. Dirk turned fully towards him at that and Dave could already tell he was going to be in deep shit for this. It wasn’t his god damn fault Redglare felt the need to fuck with him.

“How fucking long was she in there with you?” he asked.

“Like maybe five minutes. I’d yell for you guys but I didn’t want her ripping my fucking throat out,” he said.

“I wasn’t going to rip your throat out,” a high pitched grating voice said next to him. He was barely able to jump away before Dirk was lunging past him towards the spirit. When he turned to look Dirk was cursing under his breath and Redglare was gone once again.

“We need to call Bro and Mom,” Rose said.

“What if it’s a trap?” Roxy asked, surprising the rest. Dave slowly moved to grab another knife on the counter since his sword was in the living room. It wasn’t as big as the one Feferi was holding but it was better than nothing. It hadn’t been put through the weird magic shit they did to the rest of the weapons so that they would hit spirits whether they wanted it to or not, but he needed something in his hands right now.

“What do you mean?” Feferi asked, Roxy shrugging.

“Aradia and Sollux would be alone at the base if we called them. What if she’s trying to get us to lure them away from there to finish Aradia off?” she said.

“That would make sense as to why she hasn’t actually attacked us yet,” Rose said.

“We need to get her the fuck out of here,” Dirk said, starting out of the kitchen. The rest of them quickly followed, because being alone right now was probably the worst possible thing one could be.

“And just how do you suppose we do that?” Rose asked.

“I don’t know but I’m not going to just wait around here for her to show up again,” he answered. Dave could understand wanting to actually do something and look for the spirit, but he was pretty sure it was pointless. Redglare clearly knew where they were and if she didn’t want them to find her then they wouldn’t, at least not without someone doing the magic tracking shit, and that would take too long right now.

“As long as no one’s suggestin splitting up cause this is so not a Scooby Doo episode,” Roxy said.

“Yeah fuck that,” Dave added in agreement.

The group of five slowly started moving through the house, Dave grabbing his sword out of the living room and Feferi picking up the fucking trident thing she used. Apparently she used to live by the sea and was out on boats a lot but he still thought fighting with a trident was god damn insane. He supposed she managed to make it work though, even if she didn’t go out on hunts much anymore she was still pretty fearsome.

They were heading up the stairs when a voice started in Dave’s ear.

“You’re all so serious. Come on, half a little fun.”

Dave spun around, swinging his sword into nothing and nearly falling down the stairs before Rose grabbed the back of his shirt so he didn’t end up impaling himself on his own sword.

“Fuck dude are you even paying attention?” Dirk snapped.

“Nah man I was thinking about those chicken nuggets I never got to eat of fucking course I’m paying attention! It’s not like she hasn’t nearly killed me once already. It’s not my fault she’s fast as fuck,” he yelled back.

“Dave calm down,” Rose told him, and he rolled his eyes behind his glasses because absolutely none of them were calm right now.

“Sorry if I think the current circumstances where we could all die are worth freaking out about a little,” he snipped.

“How many times do I have to tell you all that I’m not going to kill you for it to get though your dumb little heads?” Redglare asked, standing at the top of the stairs now.

Dirk and Rose immediately started forward, Feferi close behind. It was difficult with all of them on the stairs though, and like Dave thought would happen she was gone before they even got within attacking range.

“Uh guys I don’t know if this is going to work,” Roxy said, voicing precisely what Dave was thinking.

“Have a better idea then?” Dirk asked back. “Seriously, if you have a better idea, let me know,” he added on. They started down a pretty much random direction at this point, but Dave was sure it didn’t matter where they went. Redglare was probably staying right out of their sight until she wanted them to see her.

They spent the next few hours combing over the house. Every so often Redglare would appear, almost to let them know that she hadn’t actually left yet. It was clear she was fucking taunting them, messing with their heads to get whatever sick enjoyment she felt from watching them squirm and jump. It was almost four in the morning when they ended up back in the living room.

“This is getting us fucking nowhere,” Dave said, wanting to sit down on the couch but sure someone would chastise him for it. He was fucking tired though. Hungry too, he still hadn’t gotten a chance to eat.

“What does she want with us?” Rose asked, rubbing her temples in frustration.

“Maybe we should ask her,” a now familiar voice said from behind the girl. Rose quickly spun around, jabbing her wand into empty air.

“Arrrgggg,” she groaned, slashing at the spot a few more times as if that would do anything.

“Maybe we should just ask her,” Dave said, not sure what else to do at this point. As far as he was concerned, it was clear as fuck that she wasn’t actually trying to kill them. Mess with their heads and shit, yeah, but he was starting to believe her when she said she didn't want to hurt them.

“Fuck that. You’re not allowed to make plans about Redglare,” Dirk said. Dave frowned, glaring at the older boy.

“Why not? I’ve been around her the most,” he argued.

“You’ve been trapped by her the most, there’s a fucking difference,” Dirk shot back.

“I don’t know, maybe Dave’s right here,” Feferi mused. Dirk turned towards the girl, a frown on his face. Dave could see how badly this was stressing his brother out. None of them liked feeling out of control, but Dirk was definitely the worst, and this whole situation was so far out of control it was flickering around them making snide comments.

“Are you serious?” he asked, Feferi shrugging.

“I don’t know but I’m tired and this isn’t working,” she answered.

“Well, are you all starting to come to your senses?” Redglare asked from behind Feferi. The girl spun and attempted to skewer the spirit with her trident, missing just as Rose had early. This time however, she simply reappeared on the other side of the room.

“Not quite there yet huh?” she said, dodging Dirk who was now closest to her and attacking.

“Ugh, you know this is starting to get repetitive. I actually want to talk at some point tonight,” she continued. As far as Dave could see no one was listening to her, the other four all rushing towards her as she continued to dodge them. He figured he should probably be helping, and he shifted his sword in his hand to do just that when she started again.

“Alright, I’m done. If you all won’t give me a chance to talk to you reasonably then I guess I have no choice,” she said. The next thing Dave realized his sword was gone, and a pair of arms were wrapped around him, holding him in place with sharp claws at his neck.

“Sorry about this coolkid,” she said, although she didn’t sound very sorry at all. Everyone else was frozen in place, staring at the two.

“It is weird that I’m starting to get numb to this?” Dave asked, half meaning it as a joke and half totally serious.

“Get away from him!” Roxy yelled.

“Nope. This is all of your guys' fault. I tried to handle it civilized but you all kept attacking me before I could get two words out,” she said. Dave was almost freaked by how god damn pissed the others looked right now. He was sure that if it was one of them she was holding hostage he’d be looking the same way, but still.

“Think we should ask her what she wants now?” he suggested, hoping if they actually just did whatever it was she wanted he might not die. They were all quiet for a moment, Dirk nearly growling as he finally relented.

“Alright, you know what, fine. What the ever loving fuck do you want with us?” Dirk asked. Dave couldn’t see her from this angle, but he was pretty sure Redglare’s smile got even wider at that.

“I thought you’d never ask. It’s simple really, I just wanted to offer you all some advice. I’m trying to be friendly here,” she said.

“Friendly?” Rose asked, an incredulous tone to her voice.

“Yes. If I have to be not friendly it’s because you all are giving me no other choice here. I won’t hurt your little baby hunter if you let me talk, I think that’s a great deal,” she said.

“I think it’s a pretty good deal too we should probably let her talk,” Dave said in a perfectly calm and casual voice with absolutely no panic what so ever.

“Alright then. Talk,” Dirk demanded.

“Finally! So, I heard that hunter who attacked one of us was still alive?” she asked, surprising all of them. They’d thought this might have something to do with Aradia, but they hadn’t expected her to just bring it up like that. Slowly Feferi nodded.

“Yes, what about her?” she asked back.

“Do you all have any idea what even happened to her? Just what are you doing to try to keep her alive?” Redglare asked.

“Do you?” Dirk asked back before any of the girls could answer her.

“Of course I know what happened. It’s pretty damn obvious. Vriska went and managed to eat most of her soul before your weird guardians could get to her,” she said. None of them seemed very surprised by this but Dave was just the slightest bit. He guessed it was because he wasn’t in with the whole magic crowd but having most of your soul eaten sounded really fucking bad. Of course, Dirk wasn't in with the magic crowd either but Dave was pretty sure he was pissed to the point of not being able to express any other emotions right now. Before anyone else could say something Redglare started again.

“What I don’t get is why you’re all trying to hold on to the idea that you can fix her. That Bro guy managed to get a tiny bit of her soul back inside of her body, yeah, but it was really obvious it wasn’t enough to keep her alive. I don’t know why he didn’t put her out of her misery then and there. He knows what it would look like if it worked,” she said.

“What are you getting at here?” Dirk asked. Dave could feel the spirit sigh behind him as she answered.

“You all aren’t going to like my suggestion, but I swear I’m telling you this for your own good. There’s nothing you can do to save that hunter. Just end it, the longer you wait the more it’ll hurt,” she said. Dave felt himself go rigid, and when he attempted to elbow her in the gut she didn’t even seem to notice.

“Fuck that! How would you know we can’t do anything?” Dave snapped. He forgot for a moment that she still had a claw to his throat, but she didn’t bother tightening her grip or threatening him any at his outburst.

“I am a three hundred plus years old spirit who is well aware of what the one your friend attacked can do. I also know what your strange guardian can do, and sorry but there wasn’t enough spirit left for him to fix her. Maybe he missed some and it’s just out wandering without enough strength to materialize at all, but the fact of the matter is she’s done for. I’m sorry again, but you should really all give it up,” she said.

“Why the fuck would you come here and terrorize us all night just to say this?” Rose asked. Dave could tell that Redglare was grinning again and it was starting to really piss him off.

She was fucking wrong there had to be a way to save Aradia if she died it would be his fucking fault.

“Okay, some of that was just because I was a bit bored and messing with you guys is fun. You’re all so serious, but I’m not trying to get on your bad side. I’m not dumb, unlike some people who think they’re invincible. But when Tavros told me that hunter was still alive I knew you all must have been trying to save her. I just thought I’d offer my two cents,” she told them. Dave squirmed in her grasp in an attempt to get away.

“Well thanks for that can you go now?” he asked.

“You’re not telling us the whole truth,” Rose continued however. Dave had to keep himself from groaning because the longer they had her talk the longer he had to be little mister hostage.

“Well duh. I can’t go telling you all everything. I have some personal reasons for this, of course. A couple of friends who are really upset by this and who can’t start healing until it’s over. I’m not happy about this, Vriska really fucked up this time, as if that’s anything new,” she continued, muttering the last part to herself, but Dave could still clearly hear it.

“What friends? Do you mean Tavros?” Rose asked.

“Him. And others,” Terezi answered in a vague as all fuck manner.

“What others?” Dirk asked. He was still holding his sword and looked ready to spring on the spirit the first chance he got.

“Bluh, it’s not important!” she insisted, which put it directly on all of theirs ‘very fucking important shit’ list.

“Was Aradia in contact with another spirit?” Rose asked, a cold tone to her voice.

“No more than the rest of you,” Redglare answered, and Dave could fucking hear the smile in her voice.

“Think you could give a straight answer for once here?” he asked, the spirit shifting to pat him on the head without releasing her hold on him.

“I’ve been giving straight answers all night, let me have this,” she said.

“Is that all? If you’re done let Dave go,” Feferi asked.

“Yeah, yeah alright that’s it. This time when I poof away I’ll be gone for good, don’t worry,” Redglare told them, her voice shifting serious as she continued, “think about what I’ve said though. I’m trying to help here,” she finished. Before anyone else could get another word in the spirit was gone. Dave let himself drop to the floor, because good god his feet hurt.

“Dave!” several of the others called, rushing to him. He quickly put his hands up, not quite having thought through how that would have freaked them out. Whoops.

“I’m fine! I’m fine, she didn’t do shit to me, it’s cool!” he insisted, forcing himself to get up and sit on the couch so everyone would stop looking at him like that.

“We don’t know for sure if she’s really gone,” Dirk said, not looking an inch more relaxed.

“No, we don’t. We should probably all stick together until we can figure out what to do about this,” Rose agreed. Dave stretched himself out along the couch as he nodded slightly.

“Yeah okay you guys can try to figure out how to beat the teleporting blind demon, I’m gonna go to sleep,” he said.

“Dave this is serious,” Rose chastised. He didn’t bother looking back over at her as he answered. The only reason he would move right now is if someone was giving him food, and even then despite how hungry he was it’d take some serious effort.

“It’s also practically sunrise. Good morning,” he muttered into the couch cushion.

They let him be at that. He could hear them speaking amongst themselves but he wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying. He was too tired and couldn’t stop thinking about what Redglare had told them to do.

There had to be a way to help her. He didn’t think they would just give up because some spirit told them they couldn’t. He was sure Bro or Mom or someone would be able to think of something. Fuck, apparently Bro had done it before, he could figure it out.

Which… yeah, he’d have to ask someone if they knew what Redglare meant by that, because he sure as fuck didn’t.

He could do that in the morning though. Or afternoon. Yeah, afternoon sounded much better than morning. Possibly later, if no one woke him up.

He kind of hoped they didn’t, he really fucking needed the sleep.

Chapter Text

Dave did not want to wake up. He did not want to wake up but he also desperately wanted for some food in his possession. It was a true struggle, caught between ignoring the hunger gnawing at his insides and return to the bliss of unconsciousness, or to relinquish the comfort of sleep and drag himself to the kitchen and stuff whatever he found into his mouth-hole. Both options were equally as tempting, and choosing one over the other was a difficult task for a mere mortal such as himself.

After much inner turmoil he attempted to roll over, ending up falling to the ground in a heap of blankets and limbs. Well alright then, food it is.

Pushing himself off of the ground, Dave untangled himself from a blanket he didn’t remember being there when he’d fallen asleep. Of course, he’d also forgotten for a moment that he ended up passing out on the couch, but that small fall had jogged his memory pretty damn well on that.

Stifling a yawn Dave stumbled his way towards the huge as fuck kitchen in his place. Everything in Feferi’s house was huge as fuck though, so it didn’t actually stand out too much when compared to the very big picture. He wasn’t surprised to see Roxy sitting at the kitchen table when he walked through the entryway, offering a slight wave as he went to forage through the fridge.

“Hey, sleep well?” his older sister asked, and Dave shrugged. He pulled out some of the leftover chicken from that night that he’d never gotten a chance to eat. He hadn't realized there was any left since Roxy had dropped some in his room.

“Once I managed to actually pass the fuck out yeah. Where’s everyone else?” he asked. He already had a pretty good idea on that, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some confirmation.

“Rose and Dirk are at the base talkin to all the big shots about last night. Fef’s taking a nap,” Roxy explained. Dave nodded, putting the chicken in the microwave and going back to pour himself a drink. Damn, he had no idea how they were all planning to deal with this shit. He wasn’t even sure how big of a threat Redglare really was. She’d clearly known this shit for a long as fuck time and hadn’t done anything with it until now. She hadn’t even been trying to hurt them either.

Remembering what she’d told them to do sent a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach however.

“There’s no way they’re going to listen to her about Aradia, right? I mean that’d be really fucked up, there’s no way we can just take her word on it,” he asked. Roxy shrugged, taking a swing of the coffee in front of her.

“I donno man, like, it’s hard to predict with them sometimes. I mean, I was in there helping with Aradia and everything, and it just didn’t look good bro. We’ve already tried pretty much everything,” Roxy told him, sighing heavily. Dave frowned, really not fucking liking the sound of all that. Maybe it was because he hadn’t seen her since the incident, but the idea that there was nothing else they could do didn’t sit well with him. Plus, if there wasn’t anything to do but put Aradia out of her misery, then just like, fuck, how the hell would they even go about that?

“Look, just don’t worry about it kay? Whatever they end up deciding there’s nothing you can do, it ain’t your fault,” Roxy added after a moment, and Dave just busied himself with getting his food out of the microwave.

“Yeah, guess that’s just how it is,” he muttered after a moment, sitting down across the table as he started eating. Good god he was hungrier than he thought. Dave managed to pretty much inhale about half of the plate before speaking again.

“So, what do we do now? Like, are we still on house arrest or does just nothing matter anymore?” he asked.

“Haven’t heard from Mom and Bro yet but Rose and Dirk said no one goes off on their own, other than that we should be good though. Why, you gots plans?” she asked. Dave shook his head, standing up to get something else to eat now that all of the nuggets had been devoured.

“Man you know I don’t. Fuck, I doubt any of us has a life outside of this bull,” he said, Roxy nodding in agreement.

“A buncha fucked up obsessive nerds like us? You know we don’t got shit,” she said, trying and failing to keep herself from yawning afterwards. Grabbing a doughnut out of one of the cabinets, Dave turned back towards her.

“Have you slept at all?” he asked, Roxy nodding quickly.

“Yeah o’ course lil dude! I mean, kinda. Like, a little bit of sleep? It totes counts though so don’t get all worry on me I’m so good you don’t even know,” she said, Dave having to resist the urge to roll his eyes.

“Go the fuck to sleep. I’m awake now so if anything happens I’ll wake you up okay?” he told her. Roxy groaned, laying her head flat on the table before nodding.

“Yeah, yeah fine. If I wasn’t all passing out I would definitely be able to argue with you on this,” she said.

“I guess that means sleeping was just meant to be. You just gotta love these mortal bodies demanding rest and shit,” he joked. Roxy yawned as she pushed himself up from the table. Dave followed her into the living room, having finished the doughnut as well and pretty sure his stomach was appeased for the time being.

“Oh yeah, you fuckin know my mortal body is all the rage with all its sleeping and eating and being smoking hot,” she rambled.

“Since both of us are still pretty much tired as shit I ain’t gonna comment on that in order to keep us from spiraling down a Freudian fucking slip n’ slide like a couple of raging douchebags,” Dave told her.

“Smart move,” Roxy agreed, starting up the staircase. Dave stayed at the bottom, watching her go up just to make sure she didn’t end up tripping or some shit while half asleep. Once she was out of sight he walked back over to the couch and collapsed, pulling his phone out and trying to figure out how to distract himself enough to avoid falling back to sleep.

He considered texting Rose but ultimately decided against it. He didn’t want to disrupt her if they were in the middle of some important shit, and he also didn’t want to end up alerting them that he was awake and being told to come in as soon as the girl’s woke up. Honestly, he had enough weird ghost shit for at least a couple of days.

He ended up playing solitaire on his phone for a while. He wondered how long ago Feferi had gone to sleep and if she was going to wake up anytime soon.

Dave wasn’t sure if he had to stay in the living room or if he could go to his own room or what. He figured that considering the fact that Redglare could quite literally appear anywhere, if he wasn’t right with Roxy or Feferi it wouldn’t matter what room he was in. Something closer to them might have been better, since it would take less time to get there, but in the grand scheme of things Redglare could kill either of them even if he was sitting next to them watching them sleep before he'd be able to make a move.

Besides, he was pretty fucking sure that if she did return, he’d be the first person she’d end up messing with. He had no idea why, but fuck if she didn’t seem to enjoy fucking with him.

Standing up, when he turned he caught sight of something moving outside of the grand window behind the couch. He probably wouldn’t have even noticed it if he hadn’t been on high alert after everything that had happened last night.

Dave relaxed when his eyes focused and he realized it was just some dumb rabbit in the yard. That relaxation shifted to confusion as he got a better look at it. Was that… a god damn robot?

Getting closer to the glass, he was pretty damn sure that his eyes weren’t fucking with him and that was indeed a small rabbit made of metal hopping around the edge of the yard.

Dave quietly opened the front door, not wanting to alert it to his presence in case it was programmed to act like a normal rabbit and run at the first sight of movement. Which he supposed would be pretty cool but also not let him see what was going on here. Did Dirk or Bro build this or something?

He stayed on the doorstep as he reached down and picked up a rock, keeping an eye on the robot all the while. Pulling his arm back, he sent the small rock flying towards the unsuspecting thing.

“What the fuck?” the words blurted out of him as he saw the rock sail right through the body of the rabbit. It shot straight up, turning and staring at Dave. At least, he was pretty sure it was staring at him, but it didn’t have any pupils, just bright red robot eyes. Either way he didn’t dare move, officially lost on this current development.

Dave blinked and it turned, starting to hop away at a fucking breakneck speed.

“Oh hell no get back here!” he yelled, starting to chase after it. It seemed even faster than a normal rabbit, which were fucking fast to begin with and Dave quickly lost track of it once it disappeared in a couple of bushes.

“What the fuck was that?” he asked to the empty air around him. Realization struck him that he’d left the house and if he didn’t get his ass back before anyone noticed he’d be in even deeper shit than he’d been in for the Terezi thing.

Luckily he managed to make it back before anyone else woke up. Instead of heading back upstairs to his room like he’d been planning to, he stayed on the couch. He occupied himself with his phone and occasionally glanced out the window. He just needed to be there in case that thing came back. That, fuck, robot-rabbit-ghost? That was pretty much the only thing he could think to call it.

It was weird and he wanted answers and fuck it was something to think about other than the fact that he was apparently some spirit’s number one human entertainment and that one of his close friends might never wake up again.

Feferi ended up waking first, and Dave debated on telling her about the rabbit or not. They weren’t very close. Like, she was cool and all and was letting them all stay with her, which was much better than having to stay at Equius' or some shit. He just wasn’t sure if she was the first person he wanted to confide in on crazy rabbit shenanigans though.

She did end up making dinner though, and Dave hadn’t realized how late in the day it had gotten already. He guessed that’s what happens when you wake up at three in the afternoon, but still.

Dinner was almost done (tuna fish casserole and Jesus fuck he was hungry again) and he was considering going up to see if Roxy was awake yet when Rose and Dirk came home.

“Holy fuck you two look exhausted. Did either of you sleep at all today?” he asked.

“There was too much to do,” Rose said, Dirk just barely nodding in agreement.

“Wow, okay you two need to go pass out right the fuck now. You’re both lucky as shit that Roxy is sleeping or else she would be all over your asses,” he said, coming to the realization that he was the only one of his siblings to have even considered sleeping after last night without someone telling him too. When the hell had he turned into the healthy one?

“Alright mother dear,” Rose said.

“Dude, I’m surprised mom didn’t send you both home sooner, like seriously you look dead,” he told her.

“She was busy with other shit, we were with Bro most of the day,” Dirk explained. Oh, well yep that certainly explained it.

“You three should never be allowed on the same task at once, I’m surprised you all managed to stop this early if that was the case. Go the fuck to sleep,” Dave said, pushing them both towards the staircase. Usually they would have both resisted just for the hell of it, so he knew they were practically asleep on their feet when they just followed along with what he was saying.

Dave followed them up, figuring he should get Roxy to come eat soon anyway. Rose mumbled goodnight as she went into her temporary room while Dirk just sort of grunted at him. To be fair though that wasn’t too different from how he normally was.

Knocking on Roxy’s door, he heard a similar grumbling, but it sounded the slightest bit more welcoming so he decided it was safe to open the door.

“Hey, dinner’ll be done in like fifteen minutes. Also Rose and Dirk are back but they’re passing out right now so we probably won’t hear anything from them until morning,” he said. Roxy rolled over so that her face wasn’t pressed into the pillow and she could actually look at him.

“Oh? Thanks for the updates Davey. Did those two dumbs stay up all day?” she asked and Dave nodded.

“What did you expect?” he said, Roxy huffing in annoyance.

“I just can’t with them sometimes, they love taking all of my cans,” she muttered and Dave couldn’t help but agree. Closing the door behind him Dave figured that out of anyone he could talk to this about, Roxy was the most likely to actually believe him. Or at the very least not think he was either bullshitting them or just completely out of his mind.

“So, I saw something really fucking weird while you were asleep,” he said, his sister nodding as she pushed himself up to sit on the bed instead of lying down.

“Good weird or bad weird?” she asked, and Dave just shrugged because he honestly had no idea.

“Whatever weird a robotic rabbit that might also be a ghost is,” he said, a look of pure confusion falling over Roxy’s face, her head tilted to the side. “I know man but it was a robot rabbit and when I threw a rock at it the thing it went straight threw it,” he elaborated.

“Are you sure the rock went through it?” she asked and Dave shrugged.

“I’m like 99% sure but even if I’m wrong that still leaves the robotic rabbit part to be explained,” he said and Roxy nodded.

“That’s true, that is very weird,” she said. Dave leaned against the door and shrugged.

“So yeah, that was a thing that I’m not sure what to do about. Probably nothing with everything else going on, but just thought I’d throw it out there,” he said. Roxy swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stood up as she spoke.

“Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t bother anyone with this right now. What do you say we go rabbit hunting tomorrow or something if they still don’t got anything for us to do?” she said and Dave nodded. He was actually pretty relieved that she wasn’t saying that they should tell anyone about this right now. If it was just something stupid, which is most likely was, he didn’t want to distract everyone from anything important.

“Yeah sure that sounds cool and not like a total waste of time at all,” he said, Roxy yawning as she stretched.
“Alright, now let’s go get some food I’m starved,” she said, Dave nodding in agreement and starting out of the room.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, although it took forever for Dave to fall asleep. He should have expected that with waking up so late, but eventually he managed to force himself to sleep. It was definitely just the fact that he’d stayed up for so long the night before, and had nothing to do with being worried that any certain spirit would show up again.

The next morning Dave could hear someone knocking on his door and he buried his head further into his pillow. When the banging continued he made a small moan into his pillow to let whoever was at his door know he was alive and shit.

He heard the door open but still didn’t bother looking over to whoever it was entering his room.

“Davey! Guess what? It’s rabbit season!” Roxy’s loud voice called, Dave grumbling in response until he managed to get enough motivation to move his head so that his mouth wasn’t pressed directly into his pillow.

“The fuck are you talkin about?” he asked, still not bothering to do anything like open his eyes because fuck that noise.

“I asked if they needed us for anything today and to sum it up it was ‘please just keep Dave busy and safe because that boy is a ghost magnet and all hunts are on hold for now’ so we’re going rabbit hunting!” Roxy explained, and Dave groaned, pushing himself up.

“Not my fault that not even the dead can resist the Dave Strider charm,” he mumbled, reaching over to grab his shades off of the side table. Running a hand through his hair he turned towards Roxy, who was looking like she’d been up for a while now.

“What time’s it?” he asked.

“Like two in the afternoon dude, come on,” she said. Dave huffed but nodded, excavating himself from the blankets. There were so many fucking blankets it was great at night but getting out felt like some magical escape act.

“Fine, we can go running in circles for a robot rabbit as soon as you let me get dressed,” he said, Roxy giving him a salute before leaving the room. It didn’t take Dave long to throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He went to the bathroom to brush his hair before finally heading downstairs and finding Roxy in the kitchen.

“So, what’s the important shit everyone else is doing while we focus on this bullshit?” he asked, making himself some toast and coffee.

“Well, I managed to get a hold a Dirk before he ran off again this morning. They’re trying to figure out a way to buff up the void shields, and then there’s still the Aradia thing. No real update on that btw, sorry buddy,” Roxy told him. Dave nodded, swallowing his toast before speaking.

“That’s cool. I’m not sure how they can fix the shields if we aren’t even sure how Redglare’s seeing through them though,” he said, Roxy nodding in agreement.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t hurt to try,” she said, Dave shrugging. “Anyway! Rabbits! So, what’s the plan for this?” she asked.

“Fuck if I know. I guess I can show you were it disappeared off too and we can go from there,” Dave said. Once he finished eating the two started out of the house, Dave leading them to the point where he’d chased the weird rabbit robot before stopping.

“So yeah, this is it. The thing disappeared in those bushes and I figured I shouldn’t be running off while you were all asleep and shit,” he said. Roxy made a few contemplative hmm noises under her breath as she carefully circled the bushes and Dave was pretty sure she was doing most of this as a joke or to humor him.

He didn’t mind, although he would have liked for her to take it at least a little bit seriously. Of course it made sense that she wouldn’t with how he’d describe it. It was pretty fucking stupid sounding after all.

“I have no clue where a robot rabbit would go,” Roxy said finally, Dave unable to resist the urge to roll his eyes.

“Well, I guess this was a waste of time,” he said, Roxy quickly shaking her head.

“No, no, no, come on man we totally got this!” she insisted.

“Look Rox, it probably wasn’t even anything to begin with. Let’s just head back to Feferi’s and hope maybe the others can find something to do with us before we wither away from boredom,” Dave told her. She didn’t seem convinced though, actually looking a bit upset by the suggestion.

"No please Dave. I know how down you’ve been with what’s happened to Aradia and then all this junk with Redglare’s just super stressful and I want to do something fun and silly together, please?” she begged. Dave sighed, running a hand through his hair before finally giving in.

“Fine, I mean it’s not like we have anything better to do,” he conceded.

“Yes!” Roxy cheered, starting off in a random direction. Dave rolled his eyes but followed after her none the less.

It was pretty clear that neither of them knew quite where they were going, but Dave was willing to indulge Roxy for now. Hell, maybe they even would find this mysterious rabbit and be able to like, catch it. That seemed even less likely than finding it in the first place though, since it was really fucking fast.

They kept going in that direction for quite a while, not talking all that much. Roxy asked him again what it looked like and Dave explained again that it looked like a rabbit, but made of metal.

“Maybe we should just call it quits and head back. I’m sure the others don’t want us to be out for too long,” Dave said after about an hour. Glancing up at the sky, he could see clouds starting to blow in. It had been cooler today than normal, and the wind was starting to pick up. He hadn’t checked the weather today but he was pretty damn sure it was going to rain soon.

Fuck, they probably should have headed back sooner. They were definitely going to get caught in this shit.

“Rox, come on I don’t want to get fucking drenched,” he called, Roxy several feet ahead of him.

“Shhh!” she called back, and only then did Dave notice that she’d stopped moving entirely. Dave tried to stay quiet as he made his way up to join her, figuring she’d found like, an actual rabbit or something. They’d seen several already and each time Roxy made a big deal about it. He had to admit it did kind of lift his spirits, or at the very least was distracting enough for him to ignore his spirits.

“Holy shit,” he muttered, pulling his shades down the slightest bit just to be sure of what he was seeing. Yep, that was definitely a shiny metal rabbit staring at them.

“What do we do?” Roxy whispered to him, not taking her eyes off of the bunny.

“I have no fucking clue,” Dave answered just as quietly.

Dave swore that the rabbit looked back and forth between then before turning on its heels and running away.

“Shit! After it!” Roxy yelled, Dave already a step ahead of her. He could barely keep the rabbit in his sights. “I’ll go this way, let’s corner it!” Roxy called from behind him, laughing all the while. Dave just nodded, turning to the right the slightest bit after the robot. After a few moments he started to lose sight of the rabbit, but tried to follow the sound of it crashing through the underbrush.

When he finally gave up he was leaning over the slightest bit as he panted, trying to catch his breath, a small smile on his face. Looking around him, he didn’t see anyone else.

“Roxy?” he called, hoping maybe she was in hearing distance. When he didn’t receive an answer he quickly pulled out his phone, sending her a message.

TG: ground control to major tom weve lost sight of the rabbit
TG: i repeat weve lost sight of the rabbit
TG: yeah the bunnys gone
TG: where you at??
TG: in the fucking forest where else
TG: duuh knew that dude
TG: just head towards home ill meet you on the way
TG: kk see ya bro
TG: see ya

Dave slipped his phone back in his pocket and started in the direction he was pretty sure was home. He figured he could wait for Roxy once he reached the edge of the woods if she didn't beat him to it. He was about halfway back when it started raining, but he still made sure to keep an eye out for the rabbit. He’d been surprised as fuck that they’d caught sight of it again, but they had.

He wondered if maybe Dirk or Bro did have something to do with it. Just a stupid little thing to keep them busy while they worked on more important shit. Fuck, Roxy could have even been in on it.

Dave decided that if that was the case, he actually didn’t mind all that much. He definitely would have preferred that they actually let him help instead of treating him like a child they needed to keep amused with little forest creatures, but it wasn’t the worst thing they could do to keep him out of the way.

The only thing making him doubt this was the case was the way that rock had gone straight through it yesterday. That just threw everything off and sent him into straight up confusion.

Dave waited for about ten minutes at the edge of the woods before sending Roxy a text asking where she was. He knew he probably ran a lot farther than she had, so he kind of expected her to make it back before him, and definitely had no idea why she was taking this long.

After another five minutes of waiting in the rain with no answer he started back into the forest, concern growing in the pit of his stomach. This wasn’t like her and if she was pulling some shitty prank after everything that had gone down recently he was going to flip a shit. Flip so many fucking shits. He’d take up a job as a shit fry cook, be looking like SpongeBob’s first day on the job as he flipped shits instead of patties into the waiting mouths of hundreds of creepy looking fish to a really weird but oddly catchy song.

“Roxy! Yo Rox I swear to fuck answer me already!” he yelled into the rain. Taking his glasses off, he wiped the raindrops away before putting them back on. Squinting up ahead, he could just barely make out a form among the shadows and rain.

“Roxy!” he called, the person quickly spinning towards him. He started towards them, stopping in his tracks when Roxy’s voice called back to him.

“Dave get the fuck out of here!” she yelled, it very clearly not coming from the person he was facing. Dave’s stomach dropped when he managed to make out the fear stricken face because that wasn’t Roxy.

---

Karkat had been right about the dumb teasing and fighting. He knew there was no fucking way he was going to get out of that with both Terezi and John around. What he hadn’t expected was for it to last way longer than he thought it would.

He also didn’t expect to kind of actually have a bit of fun with it all. Sort of. It was a little annoying yeah, but John seemed to have realized that Karkat was pretty freaked when he woke up the other day and he wasn’t there, and seemed intent on cheering him up. Any taunting he did was obviously lighthearted and passed without much remarks.

Terezi just seemed to appreciate the chance to jab at both him and John. Even Kanaya hung out for quite a while, mostly amused with all of them. She didn't have a full grasp of the situations that led up to this, but she didn't seem to mind that.

Karkat decided he definitely liked her, and when she started off early in the morning he hoped it wouldn’t be too long before they met up again. She was actually pretty sane all things considered and that seemed to be a rare commodity in his life now a days.

They had not meant to stay the whole night, or at least Karkat hadn't but that was what ended up happening. Terezi oh so graciously offered for them to stay another day, in her own words. Karkat had been prepared to decline, and just try to get back to the construction site before too many people started their days. To his surprise however John was the one who said they should stay.

He thought that John had some sort of awkward history with Terezi and wouldn’t want to stay. He was still pretty sure the awkward history was a thing, John had all but admitted it before, but that didn’t seem to mean he would turn down the offer. Karkat wasn’t going to ask what that was about, but the two had seemed to be pretty okay with each other during the night, if not purposefully antagonistic. They both managed to stay just close enough to the line for joking that it didn't seem like they legitimately hated each other.

When they went up to Terezi’s treehouse to sleep, Karkat was a bit worried that he would wake up and John wouldn’t be there again. He tried to push those thoughts down as best he could and just sleep.

When he woke up he thought for a moment that it was near dark. He realized that wasn’t actually the case, and instead that it was raining. Looking around the small space he saw that John was awake as well. Terezi was nowhere to be seen, but he wasn’t too concerned about that.

“Oh hey you’re awake,” the other boy said, noticing Karkat pushing himself up.

“Yes I am. Should we maybe get out of here while it’s raining? There probably won’t be too many people out right now,” he suggested. John seemed to think it over for a moment before nodding.

“Yeah sure, that’ll work. I think Terezi’s gone back to spying on Vriska like a creep, so maybe we should go before she comes back,” he said. Karkat just nodded as he made his way over to the exit to start climbing down, since he knew it would take him longer to reach the ground than John. As he expected, he wasn’t even halfway out of the treehouse before John disappeared in a flash.

"You seemed fine with staying here this morning, not sure why you want to run away before saying goodbye but whatever," Karkat muttered.

“Try not to slip because of all the rain,” John called from the ground, ignoring what he'd said. Karkat just rolled his eyes and slowed down the slightest bit. It wasn’t like falling would actually hurt him. He half considered just letting go and dropping to the ground to get it over with. He didn’t actually end up doing that though, because that would probably manage to look even more ridiculous than him struggling to climb somehow.

“Well, now that that’s done with, do you know the way back because fuck if I do,” Karkat asked. John nodded, starting off in the rain without the slightest bit of hesitation.

“Yeah, it’s just this way,” he said, Karkat following him.

The two walked for only a few minutes, Karkat just barely able to keep himself from bitching about the rain since it was his idea to go out in it in the first place when John went stock still. Karkat froze as well, unsure what was going on.

“Karkat hide,” the other spirit said under his breath before vanishing.

“Wait what?! John you fucking ass where are you?” he whispered frantically, looking around and trying to figure out what exactly it was he was supposed to be hiding from.

“Oh hey stranger, caught out in the rain too?” a cheery voice called behind him. Karkat swerved to see who it was, backing up further into the shadows of the trees as he did. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to notice that you could see through him with that combined with the rain.

He wished he knew how to change his appearance to look more solid but that was still well beyond him.

“Uh, yeah,” he muttered, looking the girl over. She seemed a few years older than him, but didn’t look all that threatening. Maybe if she realized he was dead she would just get scared off. Or maybe John could show up and freak her out so she’d just leave.

“Yeah, I was out chasing rabbits with my bro, got split up and stuck in the rain, you know how it is,” she said. Jesus she was chatty. Why exactly was she talking to him?

“I guess so?” he said, not exactly processing whatever it was she was even talking about. Something about a brother and rabbits, he did not give a single solitary fuck.

“Hey man, I pretty sure it’s gonna rain for a while. I don’t think hiding in the trees till it stops is a good idea. You live close to here? It’s probably a better idea to just run for it. You can come with me and my little bro if you want. You look like you’re around his age, he could use some friends,” she started rambling and Karkat tried to figure out a way to tell her hell fucking no.

“No, I’m good here, thanks,” he said, backing up a bit for good measure. She just undid his progress by moving forward and closing any distance he managed to create.

“Aw, come on it’s just a little rain. You’ll just end up getting more wet staying out here,” she argued. Before he could say anything else he saw John appear a bit of a distance behind her.

“He said he’s good,” John told her, an unsettling undertone to his voice. The girl instantly spun around to face him. Karkat expected her to be scared, even though John still looked like his normal self, he definitely had a skill at making himself creepy despite the goofy nice guy face.

What he didn’t expect was for her to curse under her breath, get into a fighting stance and shift herself in order to shield him from John.

“Dude, get out of here this guy is bad news,” she said, not turning back to look at Karkat. He couldn’t bring himself to move or even say anything, too fucking confused about what the ever loving fuck was going on. This person knew what John was. This person knew what John was and didn’t realize that he was the same fucking thing and was trying to protect him.

Holy fucking shit. Holy fucking shit this was a hunter.

John was chuckling under his breath and even though Karkat could understand how this was actually pretty amusing he did not know if the ominous villain laugh was necessary.

“Aw, well aren’t you so heroic, trying to protect this innocent bystander,” John taunted.

“Dude, seriously, this would be like, a really, really great time for you to start running,” she said, still not bothering to glance back at him or anything. She kept her entire focus on John, and he didn’t blame her. She clearly knew how dangerous the other spirit could be. It didn’t look like she had a weapon. Fuck, it didn’t even sound like she had been meaning to run into any spirits when they were out here.

He was probably being an asshole by not playing along and getting the fuck out of there. This was someone who was bent of destroying him and the only people he could even consider calling friends now though, so being an asshole to them didn’t seem like too bad of a thing.

“Just what were you thinking coming out here all alone, hunter? That really wasn’t too smart of a move. What should we do with you?” John said, hamming up the whole scary ghost demon thing. Knowing what he was normally like, it was kind of hilarious.

The girl was practically growling at him when she answered.

“You’re not doin a damn thing you ghosty fucker,” she snapped. John laughed at her, bright eyes showing just how amused he was by all of this.

“Holy fuck are you still here? Go you douche,” she yelled at him this time, holding her fists up as if she was planning to punch the fucking ghost in front of her.

Karkat did not have too much trouble admitting that he liked dramas and great reveals and heart stopping one liners. He fucking lived for that shit, okay? It wasn’t like he had much else to do when sitting in a hospital bed than watch amazing dumbass daytime soap operas on the shitty TV that only got live five channels.

He really wished he was above this crap, but this was too golden an opportunity to pass up.

“Why would I leave? We've got you outnumbered here,” he said, watching as somehow John’s huge grin got even wider, practically splitting his face. A shock seemed to run through the hunter. She jumped away from the both of them, John letting her, although she didn’t move far, just enough so that she could keep her eyes on both of them.

“What the? You’re? Oh no…” she said, continuing to take small steps back. John matched each with one of his own, not allowing her to increase the distance between them any. Karkat stayed where he was, figuring that there wasn’t anything else he could do. It seemed like he managed to knock her off her game pretty badly though, so he hadn’t been completely useless this time.

“Roxy!” a voice called from behind him and Karkat spun around, not expecting that in the least. He could make out a figure a few feet away from him, going cold when recognition set in. Oh shit. Oh fuck that was right she’d mentioned being out here with someone else oh fuck why did it have to be him?!

Why the fuck was it always him?

“Dave get the fuck out of here!” the girl hunter yelled. The one Karkat was staring at seemed frozen in place now, staring at him. Karkat couldn’t tell if there was any recognition there because of it’s stupid shades.

“John there’s another one!” he managed to get out after a moment, realizing that the other spirit probably realized this by now but not sure what else to do.

This hunter had come close to killing him twice now and even though he didn’t see a weapon this time that didn’t make him any less worried.

The male hunter finally seemed to look past him to see the other two in the small clearing. Karkat was taken back by the look of absolute terror that fell over his face. He remembered this hunter being pinned up against a wall by John when the other spirit was in the form of a mangled fucking corpse (that was a fucking hard image to forget, it turns out) and he hadn’t looked quite so scared then.

That fear quickly seemed to shift to anger however.

“Get the fuck away from her!” he yelled, running forward again. Karkat didn’t think twice before jumping the hell out of the way. It might not have had any weapons but fuck it he had no idea if it’d managed to enchant its fucking fists or some shit. The girl seemed to think that punching would have been a reasonable way to fight John, after all. He supposed that if they could do it to weapons why not to themselves?

“Dave stop!” the girl shouted as the other hunter ran towards John, only to stumble forward when John disappeared from his path. Karkat hadn’t actually been too worried that the hunter would be able to do anything to him barehanded, but a small sigh of relief still made its way out when John vanished.

The other spirit reappeared next to Karkat and the two hunters spun around to face them again.

“Well, this was fun, but we should probably get going,” John said, placing a hand on Karkat’s shoulder.

“Bye now,” he continued, the hunters glaring and practically snarling at them, but not making any move to attack.

“Wait what are you-” Karkat started to ask as he turned toward John, not able to finish his question when it felt like all of the air had been sucked out of him. He was barely able to register the sound of the hunters yelling something before his breath came rushing back. He didn’t know when he’d doubled over, but he couldn’t hear the hunters anymore, instead just the sound of John laughing.

Whoever built in the ‘can still feel like you’re suffocating’ feature into death needed a solid punch in the neck.

Gathering himself he managed to look around and realize the hunters were gone and they seemed to be somewhere else in the forest.

“You… teleported us?” he guessed. John nodded, pride about this fact clear on his face.

“How the fuck did you know I would come too?” he asked, wondering why they hadn’t just done shit like this to begin with instead of splitting up during the last hunter attack and such. John’s smile turned a bit sheepish when he answered.

“I didn’t,” he admitted. Karkat wasn’t able to do anything for a few moments, just staring at the other boy. Eventually his brain managed to process exactly what it was John had said and he started smacking him repeatedly. He was rather proud of the fact that he was actually hitting him, and not just having his hands go through him. Of course John was laughing and probably letting him do this, but that didn’t matter.

“You… could have… left me… with those fucking hunters… you colossal ass!” Karkat yelled, emphasizing each word with a punch to varying parts of his upper torso.

“I would have gone back and got you, it just wouldn't have looked anywhere near as cool,” John insisted. Karkat gradually started letting up on the continued hitting, although that didn’t mean he wasn’t still pissed about potentially being stranded alone with two hunters, no matter how briefly it might have been.

“Don’t ever do something like that if you don’t know if it’ll work you dunderfuck,” he insisted.

“But we do know it’ll work now, so it’s all good!” John said. Karkat huffed and rolled his eyes, not wanting to continue arguing over this.

“That whole reveal you did though with that hunter not realizing you were a ghost! That was so cool dude!” John said, changing the subject. Karkat just barely managed to keep a smile off of his face, shrugging his shoulders instead.

“I just thought it would freak her out. Seemed like it worked,” he said, John nodding excitedly.

“Dude she was totally panicked! Heh, and then that other one showed up again. He's just following you everywhere. He was sooo pissed,” he said.

“I'm pretty sure she called him Dave? You think they’re all on edge because of what Vriska did? He looked fucking terrified when he saw you, way more than any other time,” Karkat asked. John seemed to think it over for a moment, some of the hype built up inside of him ebbing away.

“Yeah, that would explain a lot. They also didn’t seem to have any weapons on them, so they really could have been screwed if we wanted them to be,” John answered.

“I guess you’re on the same mindset of Terezi with thinking it’s a dumb idea to kill some and anger the rest,” Karkat said, John nodding.

“I’m still nowhere near as strong as Terezi or Vriska. I probably could have killed those two unarmed, but even that would have been hard dealing with the two of them. It would have to be killed too, I couldn't just hurt them enough to eat, and I try not to kill without purpose. If they were super determined, the two adults could probably come and manage to wipe me out if I did anything anyway. I think they realize there’s a sort of balance though. If they killed me unprovoked, they’d really piss off Vriska and some of the others, and they don’t want that,” John explained. Karkat frowned, letting all of that sink in. Before he could say anything the other spirit sighed and continued.

“Vriska though… she’s kind of messed that up for us with killing that hunter girl. They do have a means for attack now, but I think they’re weighing their options. Whether or not it’d be worth it to escalate this whole thing, you know? At least, that’s my take on it. There’s probably a lot more to it than that, but in the grand scheme of things I’ve barely been around at all, so I don’t know,” he said.

“That makes sense to me, but fuck if I know anything. I don’t really get what the point of attacking us would be if they didn’t plan to kill though. Like, why fucking bother?” he asked.

“I think most of them do want to kill us and don’t really care what happens afterwards. It’s just the people who head the organization I worry about. Like, okay, so most of the time they go after weak ones, people who’ve just died and have no connections to anyone else, like you were! Usually they’re able to get to them and kill em again with no problem. You would have ended up just like that if I hadn’t helped you, and now you’re kind of a wildcard on their map. Their goal should be to take you out as fast as possible, before you get a chance to create any more powerful allies that would get pissed if you were killed,” John explained, a smile breaking out over his face as he continued.

“Too late for that though! If they want to get to you they’ll have to go through me. I think Terezi kind of likes you too, which is definitely a good thing,” he finished. Karkat wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to that, just shrugging and running a hand through wet hair.

He wondered if his hair was only wet because he thought it should be. It seemed like the rain wasn’t affecting John much at all.

“Yeah, I guess having Terezi as a backup is a pretty good thing in case you completely fuck up,” he said, John objecting at that. “But anyway, can we actually get out of here now and back to the site? Those hunters might still be around somewhere and I’d rather not meet up with them again, okay?” he asked, the other spirit nodding.

“Okay, okay, let’s go. Hey, wanna try the teleport thing again? I don’t think we can go all the way to the construction site but it’s still fun,” John offered.

“Fuck no, that shit felt awful, Jesus shit, how do you do that all the time? I couldn’t fucking breathe,” he complained, starting to walk instead. John followed him, eventually making his way a bit ahead since Karkat didn’t actually know the way.

“We’re dead Karkat. We don’t need to breathe,” he said, as if it was the logical conclusion, which yeah he supposed it was, but that didn’t stop it from feeling awful as hell.

“Whatever, it still felt terrible and we’re not doing it,” he said. John let it go after that thankfully. As they started out of the woods and into the town, there were still a bit too many people out for Karkat to feel comfortable, but it didn’t take too long to reach their destination. No one seemed to pay them much mind either, more focused on getting wherever they were heading in order to escape the rain.

Once they reached the site Karkat headed straight for the large pipe, wanting to get somewhere dry just as much as anyone else. John was right behind him, although he was still obnoxiously dry.

“So, are you sure you’re okay?” the other boy asked once they were settled. Karkat raised an eyebrow in confusion, not sure what he was talking about.

“Yes? They weren’t even able to touch us, of course I’m fine. That teleporting shit wasn’t actually that bad, it just felt weird,” he said, John shaking his head.

“Oh yeah I know that! I was talking about before, you know? When you woke up and I was gone so you left? I didn’t mean to actually freak you out or anything,” John explained. Karkat was quiet for a moment, not expecting that. He’d been kind of hoping that they could just pretend all of that had never happened.

He’d overreacted. He should have waited five fucking minutes to see if John would come back as was fucking likely.

But no, instead he had to throw a fucking tantrum and storm off feeling all sorry for himself for no fucking reason. It pissed him off just how pathetic he was sometimes.

“It’s fine, just forget about it. I just figured you found something better to do than deal with me, it’s not a big deal,” he insisted. John frowned at him and Karkat realized that he was not going to just forget it like he’d asked.

“Even if I had something else to do I wouldn’t just abandon you, that’d be pretty fucked up man,” he said. Karkat sighed, rolling his head back to lean against the inside of the pipe and not look directly at the other spirit.

“You’re not fucking obligated to help me though, if you wanted to leave you can, I’m not going to stop you,” he said, wishing that John could just understand that he didn't feel like talking about this shit.

“I guess? But it still doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would I just up and leave like that?” he asked and Karkat huffed, throwing his arms up as far as they could go in the tight place.

“I don’t fucking know! It wouldn’t have been the first time so I just assumed you were pissed at me for scanning your memories like a freak and fucked off,” he snapped. John didn’t say anything for a few moments, instead just taking the time to stare at him and think over what he’d said.

“So…” he started after a bit, “you’re saying that people have just like, left you before? For no good reason?” he asked. Karkat shifted so that he was lying on his side, his back towards John.

“Can we just drop it? It doesn’t matter anyway if you’re not going to run off,” he muttered, closing his eyes and hoping that maybe he could get some more sleep in or something. Just anything to get away from this awkward as fuck conversation.

“Oh yeah sure thing. You don’t have to worry about that, I’m not going anywhere,” John insisted. Karkat just nodded, curling up a bit more as he did. He didn’t say anything else and John seemed content to finally just leave him be.

He wasn’t able to fall asleep, but he was really fucking good at pretending.

Chapter Text

Karkat supposed that somewhere along the line pretending to sleep turned into actual sleep. When he woke up he couldn’t help letting out a sigh of relief that he hadn’t had any more strange dreams. He wasn’t sure if he could handle another thing like that right now, he was just managing to recover from the last one.

Glancing towards the open end of the pipe, he could see that it must have stopped raining while he slept. Looking over at John, Karkat was surprised to see him out cold. It didn’t seem like he slept nearly as much as Karkat had to, but he’d always just chalked that up to him being a lot stronger in general. He supposed there were still limits. Or maybe he was just bored and didn’t feel like sitting around doing nothing while waiting for Karkat to wake up.

Karkat decided to take this quiet time while John was asleep to try to sort everything out in his mind. He’d never had to keep track of this many people and delicate situations before.

So, in the ‘allies that would probably try to help if something was trying to destroy his soul’ pile there was John, Terezi he supposed, Kanaya and Jade. Gamzee too, even if he was rather strange. He would put Sollux in there if he’d spent more time with him, but so far it was just that one time and he was MIA right now anyway.

Vriska was in the ‘if Karkat ended up in a deadly situation and his only hope is Vriska he just deserved to die at that point’ pile.

Enemies were pretty much any psycho who decided to charge at him with a weapon, he wasn’t being too choosey in that category.

He had to admit, that one fucking hunter with the shades was starting to piss him off. He was pretty sure that girl had said his name earlier. He had it before but it was slipping his mind now. Dan? Devin? Whatever, it didn’t fucking matter. The fact that he kept showing up trying to kill Karkat was the important issue here.

He really had to stop getting caught by him, or else Karkat was pretty sure his luck was going to run out soon.

Karkat was distracted by John starting to shift around in the corner of his eye. Turning towards him, John pushed himself up from where he’d slumped over, stretching as far as the confined space would allow.

Or more than it would allow, actually. Karkat could see the tips of his hands and feet poking through the metal.

“How long have you been awake?” John asked, having noticed Karkat watching him.

“Only a few minutes,” he said, the other boy nodding.

“Oh okay, that’s good,” he said. Karkat turned to look outside of the pipe again. The ground was still wet from the rain and shined in the dim light from the nearest street light.

“Alright, so this is probably a dumb as all fuck question,” Karkat started. John perked up when he started speaking, instantly interested.

“I doubt that, you seem like a pretty smart guy,” he said. Karkat ignored him as he continued.

“Do ghosts ever do like, stereotypical ghost things? Like, I don’t fucking know, haunt shit?” he asked A smile broke out across John’s face and Karkat could see him holding back laughter. “Alright, don’t fucking answer that, I knew it was dumb as shit,” he backtracked. John was shaking his head, a few giggles slipping out as he answered.

“No, no, it’s not dumb. I mean, technically we’re haunting any place we’re at, but like, as for scaring people and silly things like that, yeah, some of us like to sometimes. I do it a lot, it’s fun,” John said. Karkat huffed but managed to fight down the embarrassment enough to continue the conversation.

“Why does that not surprise me,” he muttered.

“Because I’m a fun person who likes doing fun things,” John answered.

“I'm pretty sure you're quoting Terezi there. Also, wouldn’t that be dangerous? Get the attention of the hunters or some shit?” Karkat asked. John shrugged, not seeming too stressed about this.

“She was probably quoting me, and not really. Killing people gets their attention a whole lot more than spooking them,” he explained, and yeah okay, Karkat couldn’t argue with that.

“Do you want to or something? It could be good to get your mind off of everything that’s been happening,” he asked. Karkat instantly shook his head.

“Hell fucking no. To tell the truth, I just want to stay in his god damn pipe for several days, maybe a week? Who knows? Maybe I won’t move for a month, wouldn’t that be riveting,” he said. Karkat could see John rolling his eyes at him before speaking.

“Maybe a month is over doing it a bit? But yeah, we can just rest if you want,” he offered.

“Well, you can do whatever, you don’t have to stay here,” Karkat told him, feeling a bit like an ass if he was keeping John from doing what he wanted. The other boy sighed, leaning back against the pipe as he answered.

“I want to hang out with you, okay?” John insisted. Karkat wasn’t sure what to say to that, so instead he decided to change the subject.

“Are you and Vriska a thing?” he blurted out the first thought that popped into his heads.

“What?” John sputtered. Karkat decided it was too late to back out now, better to just go with it. Besides, he really did want to know what the deal was with them.

“Are you? I didn’t exactly stick around long but she seemed pretty possessive of you. Is that why things are weird between you and Terezi?” he asked. There was an obviously embarrassed expression on John’s face, but he wasn’t turning red or anything like that. Well, he didn’t have blood anymore, so Karkat supposed that made sense. If he didn't want to shift himself to blush then there was no way he'd change like that, but it was still very fucking odd looking.

“No! Bluh no, we’re just friends and she’s always like that. She’s kinda crazy, I’m not going to lie. It’s just weird between me and Terezi because Vriska killed her. It was like, a super long time ago but that’s not really something you forgive completely,” John explained. Karkat was pretty amused by how flustered he was getting, but something in there had caught his attention.

“Wait a god damn second here. Vriska killed her? Like, she’s the reason Terezi’s a ghost?” he asked, John nodding.

“Well yeah, I never mentioned that before?” John said.

“No, you said they were sisters but not how they died,” Karkat told him. Holy fucking shit, Vriska was even more of a psychopath than he originally thought.

“Oh, okay then. Yeah, I don’t know too much actually, neither of them like to talk about it, but they got into an argument over something and Vriska stabbed her eyes out and killed her,” John explained, a calmness to his voice that really shouldn’t be there given the subject matter. Karkat couldn’t do anything but stare at him for several moments, trying to process this information.

“And you’re friends with her?” he asked once his voice decided to come back.

“Yeah. I know, it sounds really bad, and it is, but I didn’t know at first, and I honestly think she’s changed. Kind of. Um, she doesn’t kill her friends anymore. Mostly,” John said, trailing off near the end. Karkat just groaned, hiding his head in his knees.

“Well, if you don’t mind me, I’d like to steer clear of anyone who was already a fucking murderer before they became a god damned ghost thank you very much,” he snapped. John chuckled and nodded.

“Fair enough. I know she’s a lot for most people to handle, it’s okay if you don’t want to be all buddy-buddy with her,” he said.

Karkat was pretty thankful that the rest of the night went by without any incident. He just needed like, at least three more of these and maybe he could calm down enough to not be a hair away from panicking at any given moment.

When the next night proceeded to be calm as well, he thought he might actually manage to have fallen into some sort of ease.

It was around midnight the following day when he realized that anything going his way was just wishful thinking. John was sitting on top of the large pipe and Karkat was leaning against it when an unfamiliar voice started out of fucking nowhere from above.

“Ah ha! John, just the fellow we were looking for!” it said cheerily. Karkat spun around, almost tripping himself in the process. There was someone standing on top of the pipe next to John that had most certainly not been there before. He looked like he was maybe in his early twenties, and almost like an older, slightly more attractive version of John. Not that John was ugly or anything and yeah he was going to stop this train of thought in its tracks.

“Oh hey Jake! How’ve you been?” John asked, seeming completely at ease with this person. Karkat tried to remember if he ever heard him mentioning a spirit named Jake before.

“We’ve been just swell John, and you?” another voice said, and Karkat found himself spinning around once again. There was a young woman not too far away from them. Damn it, he knew he’d never be lucky enough to actually have something go his way.

“Hi Jane, you’re here too,” John said. Karkat could see this Jane person’s eyes flick over to him.

“And who’s this?” she asked.

“Oh! You guys haven’t met Karkat yet. He’s new,” John explained. The Jake guy jumped down from the pipe, landing next to him and extending an arm.

“Well hello there chap! An absolute pleasure to meet you!” he said, shaking Karkat’s hand vigorously. The second he let up a bit Karkat drew his hand back, trying not to look too irritated.

“Likewise,” he said, hesitation clear in his voice and taking a step back for good measure.

“Hello dear,” Jane said as well, and Karkat simply nodded at her as she turned back towards John, who had slipped down from the top of the pipe as well.

“Now John, we’d really love to catch up, but I’m afraid there’s a bit of serious business we need to get to,” she explained. John frowned, confusion on his face clear.

“What’s going on?” he asked. Karkat wondered if he should even be here. He had no idea who these spirits were, but if something was going on he wanted nothing to do with it. He could see the worry that was etched into Jane’s face and the large smile Jake had earlier had left.

“We need to find Vriska as soon as possible. We know you’re close with her,” Jane said, John’s frown deepening.

“Is this about the hunter thing? I’ve talked to her about it already, she’s going to lay low for a while, it’s fine,” John said.

“Sorry buddy, but that’s not what we’ve been hearing,” Jake told him, slinging an arm around John's shoulder.

“She’s not going to do anything dumb okay? If you want I’ll go talk to her right now and get everything settled, you guys don’t have to do anything,” John insisted. Karkat frowned as he looked between the two other spirits. John had said that Vriska had messed shit up by killing that hunter. He wondered if something else had happened because of it. He wasn’t about to ask though, he’d rather just keep quiet for now and listen in.

“We’d still like to talk about this plan of hers we’ve heard,” Jane said.

“What plan? Who told you she was planning something?” John asked.

“Good old Tavvy boy did,” Jake told him happily, John sighing at the answer. Karkat chalked that up as another spirit he’d yet to meet, and from the twinge of annoyance on John’s face, a not very enjoyable one at that.

“Well, I don’t see why she’d tell him some sort of plan and leave me out of it,” John said.

“We’ll explain what we’ve heard on the way. You can ask her yourself if it turns out to be true,” Jane said. Karkat could see John hesitate for a moment before conceding.

“Alright fine, but I’m sure whatever this is it’s all some big misunderstanding,” he said, starting out of the construction site. Before he got far he turned back, looking over at Karkat.

“Uh, you okay with coming? I know you didn’t really want to be around Vriska much,” John asked. Karkat huffed but nodded, pushing himself off of where he’d been leaning against the pipe.

“As long as I’m not getting in the way of anything, I guess,” he said.

“Oh don’t worry, you’re fine,” Jane told him. They all started out at that, and Karkat wondered just what these two’s stories were. He couldn’t remember if John had mentioned them before, and the fact that they were willingly going to Vriska was definitely odd. From what he’d heard she was one of the strongest around, so he had no idea what they were planning to do. Of course, he didn’t know what Vriska wanted either, so he was blind on both fronts here.

“Okay, so what did Tavros tell you guys?” John asked.

“Well you already know about how she gave that hunter the old one two,” Jake started.

“Yeah, and she’s not going to do that anymore,” John cut in.

“Tavros told us that the hunters who came and tried to rescue the one who attacked had stolen something from her, and she intends to get it back,” Jane explained. John groaned, running a hand through his hair.

“Why would they steal from Vriska? That’s so stupid! Do they want to get killed?” he asked. Karkat agreed that these were all very good questions. Jane shrugged as she answered.

“I don’t know, but it'll be a big old mess if she tries to get whatever it is she thinks they took back,” she said. John sighed, nodding slightly.

“I’m sure we can talk her out of it,” he said.

As they walked the other three started talking about other things, mostly just seeming to be generally catching up. Karkat wasn’t speaking much, not really able to get a read on these two. He had no idea how long they’d been ghosts, for one thing. They said weird phrases at times, and he wondered if it was because they were old or something. If they were maybe they thought the two of them together could handle Vriska or something.

After walking for quite a while they ended up reaching a rundown old home. The windows were all boarded up and the awning out front was falling apart.

Well, it certainly looked like a place a ghost would be staying at, that was for sure.

“Vriska? Um, Jake and Jane want to talk to you about something,” John called into the house. A few moments later Vriska walked through the wall in front of them. For a moment Karkat had thought she’d come through the door like a normal fucking person, but he supposed it did look like it would collapse if you tried to move it. That didn't make it any less needlessly dramatic.

“Oh? Well they better make it snappy. I’ve got a lot to do right now, so many things, you wouldn’t believe,” she said, not even bothering to look at the two other spirits, instead talking just to John. Karkat was pretty sure she didn’t even notice he was there, and he was perfectly fucking fine with that.

“Ahem, well Vriska. It’s just that we’ve heard a bit about some of the things you want to do,” Jane started. Before she could continue Vriska perked up, cutting her off.

“Have you now? Well Crocker, would you and the dull wonder extraordinaire over there like to join me?” she asked, jabbing a thumb towards Jake. Jane huffed, shaking her head.

“No! We want you to stop. You’ve already ruffled up the hunters enough as it is, can’t you just wait a decade or so before storming in? They tend to calm down enough after so long,” she said. Vriska rolled her eyes, crossing her arms and leaning against the boarded up window.

“You worry too much! Such a worrier! I think I’ve been around long enough to understand how these things work Crocker,” Vriska said.

“We’ve been around this proverbial block a bit as well,” Jake cut in.

“Pleeeeeeeease! Just stand there and be a pretty face English. We all know that’s all you’re good for. Leave the talking to your more competent half,” Vriska told him.

“Look, Vriska, I’m on their side on this,” John said, clearly surprising her.

“John, listen to me, you haven’t even heard my full plan! I’ve been meaning to tell you, I just had to get a few other things squared away first,” she said.

“You had time to tell Tavros,” John said, irritation in his voice on the name. Karkat couldn’t help but admit he was starting to get curious about what was going on with that. He still wasn’t sure who this spirit was, but John seemed to like most other spirits so it was odd. With Terezi the only reason they didn’t get along was because of Vriska, and even then it seemed like they enjoyed the bantering for the most part. Here though it seemed that Vriska liked this Tavros guy all right.

“He was one of the things I had to get squared away! Let’s ditch these dorks so I can fill you in,” she said.

“Oh no buster, we’re not done here yet,” Jane said.

“Listen Crocker, if you and your little pretty boy lackey don’t want anything to do with my plans, then go ahead and leave! It doesn’t have anything to do with you,” Vriska snapped.

“If has to do with us if you get the hunters all up in a tizzy!” Jane insisted. Vriska huffed, turning fully towards John.

“Come on John, let’s get out of here,” she said.

“Vriska…” John hesitated. Karkat couldn’t help but be thankful for that, because he had no fucking doubt that whatever it was she wanted to do would end horribly.

“Don’t be lame John,” Vriska said.

“I’m not being lame! I just don’t think messing with the hunters right now is a good idea,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Yes you are so being lame John. Don’t be like these dorks, trust me. Have I ever been wrong before?” she asked.

“Uh, yes,” John said, Vriska huffing at his answer.

“Tavros doesn’t count! I’m not finished with that yet,” she snapped.

Okay, Karkat was officially lost on whatever was going on at this point. He was just going to continue being quiet and hoping no one remembered he was there.

“If you don’t stop this foolishness we’re going to have to get others involved,” Jane cut in. Vriska rolled her eyes at the comment.

“Oh noooooooo, what are you going to do? Get Jade to bark at me? I’m so terrified,” she taunted.

“I suppose we’ll come back when you’re feeling more reasonable,” Jane said. As she and Jake started to turn away she turned towards John.

“John, are you coming?” she asked.

“Uh,” he stumbled, looking back between the two and Vriska.

“John, we need to talk,” Vriska insisted once again. He turned back towards Jake and Jane.

“Maybe I should just talk to her for a bit. It won’t take long,” he said. Jane frowned but nodded none the less.

“If that’s what you want John, we’re not going to force you or anything like that,” she said, fixing Vriska with a glare. The other girl just rolled her eyes and ignored the jab.

“So, should I just wait out here or…?” Karkat trailed off, speaking up for the first time in quite a while. It actually seemed to surprise everyone there

“Oh! Karkat, uh, I kind of forgot you were here. You're not usually this quiet,” John said, not surprising him in the slightest.

“Well now that I’ve reminded you of my presence what should I do?” he asked.

“You can stay with us until John’s done with his little chat,” Jake offered. Before Karkat could say anything on that John started nodding.

“Oh yeah that’s a great idea! Stay with Jake and Jane, they’re both super nice and will make sure nothing bad happens to you, don’t worry,” he said. Karkat wanted to argue with him, but seeing as his only other option would be to awkwardly wait around alone while John argued with Vriska it didn’t seem like a particularly horrible alternative.

“Fine, just don’t take forever,” he said.

“I won’t, we’ll be right back,” he said, Vriska already starting to drag him through the wall. Karkat could see the other two starting away as well and followed after them.

“Well, you’re not a very talkative fellow. How long have you’ve been around now?” Jake asked, a lighthearted tone in his voice despite everything that had just happened. Karkat shrugged, watching the ground as he walked.

“I don’t know, a little over a month maybe?” he said, Jake giving a low whistle at his answer.

“By gum, John wasn’t pulling our legs when he said you were new,” Jake said. Karkat nodded, because yeah compared to some of the numbers he’s been hearing he was practically a fucking newborn.

“How about you two?” he asked, since he really was curious about that.

“Just a few years shy of a hundred myself, but Janey’s already reached that milestone,” Jake said, Jane swatting at him.

“You make me sound old,” she complained. Before Jake could say anything else she turned towards Karkat.

“We’re real sorry about getting you all caught up in this mess already. I’m afraid you died in a bit of an uneasy time for us all,” she said, Karkat shrugging.

“Don’t worry about it. I’d figured this was your normal fucking day to day as a ghost,” he said.

“It has been recently, but it’s not always like this. Hopefully you’ll be able to survive long enough to get to experience when it’s calm,” Jane said.

“Hopefully is the main word there,” Karkat said. He hesitated a moment before asking his next question, since he wasn’t sure how much he should get into this.

“So, when you said you’d get others to help if Vriska wouldn’t listen, who were you talking about?” he asked, deciding to just go with it for now.

“Well, we’re not quite sure who’ve you met, but there is a spirit who even ol’ Vriska can’t simply brush off,” Jake said.

“Is it Terezi?” Karkat decided to just ask. It was the only one he could think of after all. She had to have been a spirit for just as long after all, and he got this vague sense of a rivalry between them. Looking at Jake and Jane he could see they were surprised by his question.

“Well, yes,” Jane said after a moment. “Have you met her?” she asked.

“Yes,” Karkat said, the exasperation clear in his voice. The two quickly recovered from their slight shock.

“I’ll say, this certainly makes explaining that easier,” Jake said, Jane nodding in agreement.

“What will happen if you can’t get Vriska to stop whatever she’s planning to do?” Karkat asked, figuring that was the next most important thing. Jane sighed, shrugging a bit as she answered.

“It will most likely cause the hunters to take an even more serious approach to taking us down,” she said.

“Don’t you worry about that though, I’m sure we’ll get her to change her tune,” Jake said. Karkat just nodded, hoping that maybe John could talk some sense into her so that they wouldn’t have to get Terezi involved at all. It wasn’t that he minded being around her much anymore, but it just did not sound like good things happened when those two were together.

“I’ll take your word for it,” he said after a moment. They were all quite a ways off from the old house now, and Karkat took a quick glance back.

“How long do you think it’s going to take?” he asked. He really hoped that John wasn’t lying when he said it’d be fast. Jake and Jane didn’t seem all that bad so far, both pretty sane from what he’d seen, but that didn’t mean he was super comfortable being around them alone like this.

“He’ll try his best to be back in a jiffy, I’m sure. How much Vriska interferes with that, we’ll see,” Jane said. Yeah, that sounded about right. They had stopped walking at this point, and Karkat wasn’t entirely sure what to do anymore. He’d never been the best at keeping a conversation going, and that was with people he’d known for longer than a few hours.

“So buddy, how’ve you liked being a ghost so far?” Jake asked. He seemed a lot more talkative than he’d been while Vriska was around, but he’d talked a lot before then too. She’d shut him down pretty fast though, so he supposed it make sense that he hadn’t said much.

“It’s different,” Karkat answered. Jake nodded in agreement.

“Don’t worry old chap, you get used to it,” he said. Karkat still wasn’t sure if he wanted to get used to it, but he wasn’t going to bring that up. They both seemed pretty fine with the whole undead spirit thing, and he didn’t want to end up pissing them off.

“And how long does that usually take?” he asked instead.

“Give it at least a year for the initial shock to start to wear down,” Jane said. Karkat nodded, thinking that over a bit. A year didn’t actually seem too bad compared to the grand scheme of how long some of these guys had been around. It was still much longer than he would have liked to wait for things to just ‘start’ to get normal, but he’d be surprised if he lasted that long, honestly.

“Try not to get too bothered about all this kafuffle with Vriska, if anything it should distract hunters from taking out some of the newer spirits like yourself,” Jane added after a moment.

“I wasn’t planning on getting involved, you don’t have to worry about that,” Karkat said. It was true after all, he just wanted to lay as low as possible and hope he could avoid anyone trying to kill him. He hadn’t been doing a very good job of that so far though, but maybe these two were right. Whether or not something happened, it seemed like those hunters would be too busy to bother with someone like him for a while.

As soon as John was back and they were alone again they would have to have a talk about this. He doubted that John would actually be convinced to join whatever plan Vriska had, so if things did go down he wanted to know what they should do to keep out of the crossfire.

Right now though, they just had to wait until he was finished humoring Vriska.

Karkat really wished he’d hurry up already.

---

Dave frantically looked around the now empty clearing, expecting the Trickster and that new spirit to reappear at any moment. After several tense seconds of nothing happening Roxy let out a large sigh of relief.

“We just can’t catch a break, can we?” she said, Dave nodding absently. Turning towards his sister, he looked her over for any signs of injury.

“You okay?” he asked, Roxy nodding as she ran a hand through wet hair. The rain was still coming down, gradually getting harder. Dave could feel that his own clothes were pretty soaked through by now. He hadn’t even noticed when the spirits were here, he’d been in such a panic to try and protect Roxy.

“We should get outta here,” she said, Dave nodding in agreement as the two started back towards Feferi’s house. He couldn’t help keep his guard up as they walked. The last thing he wanted was to have those fuckers sneak up on them again.

“What happened back there? How the hell did you manage to run into fucking Trickster the second I turned my back?” Dave asked.

“Okay, you don’t have room to talk on the whole accidental spirit run-ins department,” Roxy argued. Dave shrugged, debating whether or not it would be worth it to wipe his shades off if they were just going to get wet again in five seconds.

“Probably not, but still,” he said, Roxy sighing loudly.

“I donno man, I saw a kid in the bushes and started talkin to him but it turned out he was a ghost and then Trickster showed up too,” she told him.

“It was that new spirit, right?” Dave asked. He hadn't been too focused on him with Trickster around, but he was pretty sure it was that guy again.

“I guess so, didn’t recognize him,” she said. They managed to make it back to the house after a few minutes, their walking turning into a halfhearted run as they got closer in order to get out of the rain. Once they were inside it hit Dave just how fucking soaked they were.

“So, do we tell everyone about this or what?” he asked, starting up the stairs while trying not to slip in the puddles they were both leaving.

“We probs should, but ya know everyone’s already so stressed about the whole Redglare thing and the whole Aradia thing…” Roxy trailed off. Dave nodded, stopping in front of his room.

“Nothing really happened. I think they were just as unprepared to see us as we were with them,” he added.

“Soooo, maybe we should just keep this to ourselves? At least until things start calming the fuck down,” Roxy offered.

“Sounds good to me. Now I’m gonna get out of these before I get soaked to the bones,” Dave said.

“Sames,” Roxy said, starting towards her own room as Dave close the door behind him. Riffling through the large duffle bag he had most of his clothes stacked on top of, he grabbed a shirt and some pants that he was pretty sure were clean and changed into them. He considered finding a hair dryer and fixing up his hair as well, but decided against it. He was too lazy right now.

Falling down onto the bed, Dave debated on whether or not he should take a nap or something before dinner got done. As far as he knew though, it was just him and Roxy home right now, so who even knows when that would be, especially if Roxy got the same idea.

Instead he pulled his computer onto his lap and tried to distract himself until he got hungry enough to either fuck around in the kitchen or ask Roxy if they could order something.

It was about an hour later when he heard a knock on his door.

“Human’s only,” he called, feeling like he needed to make that distinction with how many spirits kept appearing in his person space. The knob twisted after a moment and Rose walking into the room. “Hey, I said humans only,” he joked, his twin rolling her eyes.

“How will I ever recover from your barbs, I’ll never know,” she said, sitting down on the end of his bed.

“You won’t. Sorry sis, that one will be stuck in you until the day you die,” he said.

“Truly tragic.”

“Motherfucking heartbreaking.”

“My eternal tears aside, I thought you might want an update on everything,” Rose said, perking Dave’s interest. He hadn’t really been offered an actual update on shit for a while now. He was itching to get back to the base just to be able to feel like he was in the mix of it all again, but they kept saying they didn’t need him. It was pretty clear that they didn’t want him hovering around while shit was still delicate.

“Sure thing, lay some news on me,” he said, trying to keep nonchalant about this.

“Well, for starters, we’re not going to follow Redglare’s advice,” Rose said, and Dave wasn’t able to keep himself from sighing in relief, tension he hadn’t realized had been built up inside of him ebbing away. He knew Rose could tell, but she didn’t comment on it, and he sure as fuck wasn’t going to.

“Does that mean you guys think you can fix her?” he asked instead, trying not to get his hopes too high up.

“I’m not sure, but we’re not going to throw away the chance,” she said.

“Yeah no, giving up ain’t an option,” he agreed.

“Also, we’re going to go back home. Since it’s apparent that Redglare most likely knew where we were long before she attacked you, avoiding the house is unnecessary. Also since she broke in here and spent the whole night tormenting us, it’s not exactly safer either,” Rose said.

“Hell yes, I miss my bed. Nowhere near as comfy as this one, but it’s mine,” Dave said.

“I know what you mean,” Rose agreed.

“So, when are we heading back?”

“Dirk will be here in about an hour to give us a ride, so clean up while I go tell Roxy,” she said. Dave nodded, shutting his laptop in order to start getting things packed up.

“Alright, sounds like a plan,” he said, Rose giving him a slight nod as she left the room. Walking over to his bag, he started shoving the clothes that had been on top of it inside instead.

He hadn’t realized just how tensed everything had been making him until some of it had managed to leave. They were still going to try to help Aradia. He was sure that if they just kept on working at it they’d figure out something eventually. They were going home too, thank fucking god. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Feferi’s place, it was better than a lot of other places they could have stayed after all. Way fucking better than the couple of nights they spent at Sollux's. He just couldn’t be completely comfortable in someone else’s home.

He’d also never been attacked by Redglare while inside his house, so even if he easily could, the fact that it hadn’t happened made it feel safer.

She hadn’t quite attacked them either, but that night was still unsettling and exhausting as fuck.

Once he managed to shove everything into his bag and force the zipper shut Dave carried it down to the living room. A few minutes later Rose came down with her own bag. Dave had started messing around on his phone by then, but he offered her a nod as she walked into the room. She placed her bag on top of his before sitting down next to him on the couch.

“So, when do you think we’ll start going after spirits again?” Dave asked, not remembering a time shit had been this bad that they’d just put a halt on hunting all together. He was sure it’d happened before either he or Rose had joined, but it was still strange as shit.

“I’m not entirely sure. Hopefully before you get too antsy,” she said.

“Hey, maybe I’m liking the chance to get to chill out for like five minutes for once,” he said. Before Rose could say anything they could hear Roxy starting down the stairs, letting her bag drop to the floor by theirs before flopping next to the two.

“Sup, when’s Dirk supposed to show up?” she asked, Rose pulling out her phone and starting to type something as she answered.

“In about fifteen minutes or so. I’ll send him a text to let him know we’re all ready, that might hurry him up a bit,” she said, Roxy nodding.

“Sounds good, sounds good,” she said.

Dirk ended up getting back in about ten minutes, but they had to wait or him to pack his own shit before they could leave. Thankfully it didn’t actually take that long, and Dave had to hold back the immense sigh of relief he wanted to let out when they walked into their house.

“I’m going to order something for dinner,” Rose said. Dave shifted his bag on his shoulder and started towards the stairs.

“Cool, let me know when it gets here,” he said, making his way to his room. Once inside he let his bag fall from his grasp and collapsed onto his bed. Oh sweet, kind of lumpy bed, how missed you were. He thought maybe he should try to unpack a bit, but decided he’d do it after food got here.

Rose called him down for dinner a little while later. After they ate they all pretty much went off to unpack and do their own things for the rest of the night after that. Before he left Rose had offered for Dave to come into the base with them tomorrow. He was pretty thankful for that, because he was starting to feel pretty fucking useless sitting around all day.

He’d probably just end up sitting around being useless at the base too, but at least it gave him the illusion of productivity.

The next morning Dirk knocked on his door, letting him to be up and ready in half an hour if he wanted a ride. Dave groaned and threw a pillow at the door as his answer. He’d been separated from his bed for so long, it wasn’t fair trying to pull them apart like this. Eventually Dave did pull himself out of bed and start getting himself presentable enough to leave the house. It didn’t take much work since his baseline look was already pretty great.

Walking down to the kitchen, he wondered if anyone had actually thought to stop by and get rid of the food that had been in the fridge when they left. It probably wasn’t good still, after all. They’d have to go to the store and stock up again.

He was so not it on that chore. Last time he went to the store he got within a hair of losing his fucking arms. They were pretty much all healed up now disregarding the scars that were left, but still, much too risky.

When he reached the kitchen he saw Rose eating a bowl of cereal, so he assumed that was safe, poring some for himself as well.

“So, what are you gonna be up to today?” Dave asked as he sat down next to his twin. He wasn’t sure where Dirk was, probably fixing his hair or something before they left. He didn’t know if Roxy was going to head in today or not.

“Most likely helping out with Aradia,” she said. Dave nodded, not sure what to say. He was just glad that they weren’t going to give up on her yet. He wouldn’t be able to ever forgive himself for not stopping her that night if they didn’t manage to save her. He quickly shook himself out of that line of thought. There wasn’t anything he could do about it now after all but hope they managed to find something that could work. He was sure they would.

Exactly a half an hour after Dirk had woken him up the older boy came into the kitchen and asked if they were ready to go. Walking to the car, Dave figured Roxy wasn’t working today. That, or she was going to head in a bit later.

He probably should have asked, since if she was he could have gone in with her and not have to wake up as early as the workaholic wonder twins.

The fact that Rose was his twin and not Dirk’s wasn’t important.

Once they reached the base Dirk immediately started towards the back rooms. Dave wasn’t even sure what he’d been doing these past couple of days. Dirk wasn’t too into all of the magic stuff, although Dave supposed he did do it a bit. More than him, at least. Rose told him to come get someone if he needed anything, but try not to bother them too much. He told her that he’d be able to amuse himself just fine, go do her magic thing and save Aradia’s soul.

A good twenty five minutes into Tetris on his phone he realized he wasn’t actually all that good at amusing himself. He considered checking on how Sollux was doing. From what he knew the poor guy was still locked up in his office. Rose said they’d managed to make sure he was eating enough and bathed at least once a week, but that was about it.

Dave wasn’t quite sure if he was ready to talk to him yet though. He still felt horrible about what happened, and he knew Sollux was like that times fucking 200.

Ultimately he decided against it, but he had ended up standing up from where he’d been seated before, starting to pace around the room as he tried to figure out what to do. He couldn’t really go anywhere. He wasn’t supposed to mess with what everyone else was doing.

The door to Aradia’s office kept catching his eye every time he passed it. He shouldn’t go messing around in there though. Not only was it pretty disrespectful (even if she wasn’t dead) but he didn’t want to fuck with anything that they might need to save her.

He managed to last an hour before giving in and making his way over to the room.

Looking around, he carefully opened the door and slipped inside. He waited until he shut it before flicking the lights on, not wanting anyone to catch him at the last second.

It was pretty much exactly as he’d remembered it, since it hadn’t been that long since he’d last been in here when it came right down to it. A desk with a big ol’ magic ball on it was still against one wall and there were shelves upon shelves of weird magic shit and cool dead junk.

He started walking around the room, carefully looking over the items on the shelves as he did. It did not seem like long since he’d been in here waiting for her to track down that new spirit for him. The skull he’d been messing with was still where he left it. All the antique hourglasses she had were run to one side. Whenever Dave came across one he would flip it over. He figured some of the smaller ones she had would have already run through their sand by the time he left the room, but it made everything feel a bit less still.

After a while he ended up by the desk. The magic ball didn’t have any of the grids or swirls of colors in it like before, and instead was just a plain milky white. Dave was a bit tempted to see if he could make it work, but he’d figure he’d just end up trapping his soul inside of it or something.

Opening one of the drawers, it was filled with papers and more strange little knickknacks. He figured most of the ones in here were probably magical and he shouldn't mess with them.

He didn’t see that weird blue die anywhere. He remember she’d put it in here when he was messing with it, but searching through the drawer brought up nothing.

He hadn’t meant to look through all of them, but that’s what happened. He really wasn’t all that good with the whole impulse control thing.

When he pulled the last one open a white ball rolled forward. For a second he thought it might have been a smaller magic ball or something, like for when you gotta do some magic on the go. When he picked it up that didn’t seem to be the case. Upon close inspection, he was pretty sure it was just one of those balls they use in pool. The white ones. Cue balls?

Did pool count as a sport? Because if it did then that explained his absolute shit knowledge of it.

Turning it over in his hand, he wondered why Aradia had it. It didn’t seem particularly magical or like the other cool old shit she had. Seemed pretty new actually, no scratches or anything. He should probably put it back just in case it was magic and decided to explode in his face or some shit.

He slipped it into his pocket, closing the drawer and continuing his look around the room without a second thought.

Dave wasn’t sure how long he ended up spending in Aradia's office. Once he got to the end of the shelves he went back and flipped over all of the hourglasses that had run out. By the time he finished with that, some of the larger ones had gone through their sand, and so he went and fixed those. He ended up in a cycle of walking around the room, flipping glasses as they ran out until he heard the door open behind him, causing him to nearly drop the one he was currently holding.

“What are you doing?” Dirk asked, and Dave barely managed to keep himself from cursing as he put the hourglass back in its spot and turned around.

“Nothing much. Ya know, just… flipping hourglasses,” he said, motioning towards the hourglass and hoping Dirk would just let it go.

“You shouldn’t be messing around in here,” he said, and Dave nodded.

“I know, I was just,” he started, not able to come up with what he was actually doing. Nothing, when it came right down to it. Dirk sighed when Dave wasn’t able to finish his sentence.

“Get out of her room,” Dirk said. Dave put his hands up as he started towards the door.

“I’m leaving, relax man. I wasn’t fucking with anything, I swear,” he said, Dirk nodding subtly.

“They’ll figure something out,” he said, not having to explain what he was talking about. From most people Dave would have just thought of that as just a general encouragement, but from Dirk he wasn’t so sure. Dirk was a lot like Bro, but unlike Bro, you could actually wear him down enough to get stuff out of him.

“Do you know something? You’re really not all into magic like the others. What have you been doing here?” Dave asked. Dirk flicked off the lights and closed the door before answering him.

“Support. I know enough to be able to get them shit when they ask for it. We’ve also been trying to figure out where to go from here,” he explained.

“Where are we going from here? Redglare could kill all of us on a fucking whim. Spiderbitch took out Aradia and fuck if I’m just gonna let her get off scot-free for it. Sollux is a wreck, I keep running into spirits every time I turn a fucking corner and now the god damn trickster has a little lackey running around with him,” Dave could feel himself spiraling into a rant but he didn’t want to stop. Shit just kept happening and he was fucking tired of it already.

“Well first of all we’re taking it one thing at a god damn time,” Dirk said.

“But nothing is getting fucking solved,” Dave argued. It felt like they were stuck. Those spirits were just screwing with them at this point. They didn’t even think of them as actual threats anymore.

“Yes, it is. If you honestly think we’re just going to let them keep fucking with us and not pay for the shit they’ve done you’re clueless. This shit takes time and planning. We can’t just run in there and expect not to end up just like Aradia,” Dirk snapped.

Dave wanted to yell at him for that. Even if it was a dumb move at least Aradia was fucking trying to do something instead of just sitting around hoping the spirits would eventually bore themselves to death.

He was right though, and Dave knew that.

“Why did you even look in her office in the first place?” he asked instead, changing the subject.

“You weren’t out in the main room. Wasn’t that hard to figure out where you might have gone,” Dirk answered. Dave cursed in his head because yeah okay that made a lot of sense. He hadn’t thought of that. Probably shouldn’t have stayed in there for so long then.

“You think they can fix her?” Dave asked, figuring it would just be good to get his opinion on it. Dirk was usually right about shit, after all.

“I don’t know,” he said, and it was really fucking hard for Dave to keep from frowning at that answer. Dirk did not admit he didn’t know stuff often. It made it feel like there was just no fucking telling if she would ever get better.

Dirk left to go back to whatever planning and shit he’d been getting up to beforehand and Dave started messing with his phone again. He ended up texting Nepeta and complaining with her about how there wasn’t anything for people like them to do right now. He also caught her up on some of the happenings from the past couple of days. She’d heard a bit, but not in any detail.

They also talked a bit about Aradia, which was kind of nice. It was still pretty awkward and uncertain so they didn’t stay on the topic long, but it was different than when talking to other people about it. She wasn't just trying to comfort him and tell him it would be okay.

Dirk drove Dave and Rose home a few hours later before heading back to the base. They didn’t want anyone walking around at night anymore, even in groups.

Dave was changing into some pajamas for the night when he tossed his pants towards a hamper and they landed with a much louder bang than he’d expected. Walking over, when he picked them up the cue ball from before fell out of his pocket, rolling away until it got caught up on a wire.

Picking it up, he’d actually forgotten he’d grabbed the ball earlier. Looking it over, it didn’t seem like it got scratched any when he’d dropped it. Staring at it for a moment longer, he shrugged and tried to put it on his shelf. Every time he’d let go it would start rolling though, so he got a piece of string and made a little base so that it wouldn’t fall off in the middle of the night.

He wasn’t all that sure why he’d grabbed it to begin with. Probably just because he was feeling dumbly sentimental and wanted to have something to remind him of Aradia in case she didn’t…

Flopping into bed, he decided he wasn’t really going to think about it. This shit took time after all, so he should just wait and hope everyone else could figure it out. It fucking sucked that there wasn’t anything he could do, but it was better than trying to do something and fucking it up when people told him not to.

Once they managed to come up with a plan, then he could help.

Until then, he just had to deal with being useless.

Chapter Text

The next morning Dave woke up before Rose headed into work. Walking into the kitchen, he waved halfheartedly to her as he ambled over to the fridge. Dave nodded at her quip of good morning but he didn’t bother to say it back, instead just groaning as he stifled a yawn and pulled out some milk for cereal. It wasn’t until he was about halfway through his breakfast did he start to wake up enough to formulate actual sentences.

“So, another day of intensive magics for everyone?” he asks, still wondering just how long it’ll be until they have something for him to do again. Rose dunked her toast into her tea as she answered.

“That is indeed the plan,” she said. Dave tried to keep himself from showing any kind of annoyance. He wanted them to keep working on Aradia after all, he was just getting fucking bored here. There was stuff he could do to keep himself occupied, yeah, but nothing that would make him feel like he wasn’t just being a big waste of space.

“You wouldn’t happen to have anything non-magic related you need getting done, do you? I’m sure I can be useful for more than just killing shit. I got a bit of a brain up in here, you all might as well use it to its fullest potential,” he asked in between spoonfuls of cereal.

“Hmm,” Rose mused as she sipped her tea. Dave wasn’t actually expecting her to have anything for him to do, so he was surprised when she continued.

“There is something I’ve been meaning to look into, but I haven’t had time with everything that’s going on. Perhaps you could get a start on it for me,” she said. Dave frowned and raised an eyebrow in question.

“Remember that this has gotta be magic free here, I ain’t losing my soul over this,” he reminded her. Rose waved away her concern as she took another bite of her toast.

“Relax, the only magic you might use is the magic of the internet,” she reassured him.

“Oh, okay then. Internet I can do. Lay it on me,” he said.

“Well, as you now know, these spirits used to be living people,” Rose started. Dave nodded, letting her know he was listening. “Well, I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been rather curious about who they used to be and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. If there’s a pattern or reason as to why they became these creatures and such,” she explained.

“Yeah, that would probably be a good thing to know,” Dave agreed, but there was just one problem with this. “How am I supposed to find any of that shit out though? I don’t think it’d be all too good of an idea to go around asking them,” he asked.

“Of course not. We know a few names, as well as an approximant time for how long most have been around. The rest will take some detective work,” Rose said. Dave nodded, because yeah it might be difficult or impossible to find out for some of them, but it was something to keep him busy, and that was all he wanted right now.

“Yeah sure thing, I can get my sleuthing on with all the ghosts. Don’t got anything better to do after all. Motherfucking Sherlock Holmes this bitch until those ghost fuckers are like damn, how’d he know I died in some tragic wood chipper accident, it’s a god damn mystery,” he rambled.

“I’ll give you some of the information I’ve managed to gather about ages and names so far when we get to the base,” Rose said. Dave finished up his cereal and stood up from the table, yawning again.

“Alright cool, I’ll go get dressed so we can go then,” he said, starting up to his room. It didn’t take him long to get ready and head back downstairs. Rose already seemed ready to go when he saw her in the kitchen, and that proved to be correct, his sister not wasting any time leaving the house once he was back.

When they reached the base it was about as quiet as it had been the last time he was here. Rose lead him back to her room, and Dave found himself stopping for a moment outside of Sollux’s room.

“So, have you heard from him at all? Like, should we be worried, it’s been a while now,” Dave asked. Rose sighed and he continued to follow her down the hallway as she answered.

“He’s taking it hard, but believe it or not he is getting better. He took a shower the other day without anyone forcing him to,” she said. Dave nodded, not exactly feeling better from that little tidbit of information. After a few seconds they reached Rose’s office and she started rummaging through her desk and pulling out a few papers.

“This is what I’ve managed to compile on the spirits identity so far. It’s not much, but I haven’t had any time,” she says, handing him the paper. Dave quickly scanned it over, already knowing a lot of it.

The Trainer: Name- Tavros Nitram: Approximate First Sighting: August 18th, 2013.
Redglare: Name- Terezi ???: Approximate First Sighting: Early 1700s
The Spider: Name- Vriska ???: Approximate First Sighting: Early 1700s
The Ringmaster: Name-???: Approximate First Sighting: Mid 1800s
Sugar: Name-???: Approximate First Sighting: 1913
Casanova: Name-???: Approximate First Sighting: 1923
Vampire: Name-???: Approximate First Sighting: 1961
Bloodhound: Name-???: Approximate First Sighting: 1978
The Trickster: Name-???: Approximate First Sighting: April 17th, 2005
‘New Spirit’: Name-???: Approximate First Sighing: June 12th, 2015

“Trickster’s name is John,” Dave blurted out, not thinking about what he was saying and the fact that he and Roxy had agreed to keep that whole unexpected meeting to themselves. Rose shot him a very surprised look.

“And how do you know that?” she asked, and he shrugged, trying to keep this all as casual as possible.

“Heard the new dude calling him that once,” Dave said, trying to keep as vague about it he could. It wasn’t that big of a deal but he knew everyone would freak out if he kept running into spirits when he wasn’t supposed to. He could tell that Rose knew he was doing that, but thankfully she didn’t seem like she was going to push it for now. Instead, she just scrawled the name ‘John’ in on his entry before handing it back over to him.

“Well then, it sounds like you’re already on a roll here, you’ll do great,” she said. Dave took the paper and nodded.

“So, just find out as much as I can, which will probably be fuck all, since we don’t have last names or exact dates for their deaths or anything like that. I mean, besides Tavros. But we already know he was killed by Spiderbitch. Might be able to figure out something about Trickster, but we’ll see,” Dave said, talking more to himself than to Rose at this point. She didn’t seem to mind any, gathering up a few books as she spoke.

“Any little bit helps. Now, I should go help with Aradia,” she said. Dave nodded, following her back out of the room.

“I’ll head back home and get started on this, good luck,” Dave told her.

“Likewise,” she said.

Dave started out of the base before anyone could come out and stop him from heading out on his own. Everyone was still a bit skittish about people going anywhere without a buddy, but the walk home was only a few blocks.

He was still fucking relieved when he managed to make it back without any incidents. He didn’t know if anyone was still home, but he didn’t bother to check, instead just walking up to his room and pull his computer into his lap.

Okay, so they’d already looked into Tavros’ death pretty in depth when Aradia first joined. All official reports said that he had fallen off of a cliff due to an accident, possible suicide, but they were able to find out that the Spider had been involved. What had actually made it odd was that it didn’t seem that she ever actually ate him. Dave had always thought the guy probably thought launching himself off a cliff would be better than dealing with her, but there was no way of actually telling if that was the case.

Well, he supposed he could always just ask the dude now, but he was getting off track here.

So, there really wasn’t any use looking into him since he wouldn’t find anything they hadn’t already known. Redglare and Spider both looked difficult as fuck since they’d pretty much been around forever and he doubted typing in ‘terezi, 1700th death blind and creepy’ into google would give him anything.

He doubted this because he tried it and got jack shit.

So that left Trickster, who would be one of the easiest anyway since besides the name they at least had a date where he started showing up instead of a vague couple of years. The only other one who’d be easier was the new spirit if only they had a name. Dave was still going to go through the obituaries for June and see if there was anyone who died around here who was young and looked like him though.

It only took a few google searches and Dave getting sidetracked several times by a several strange obituaries before he was pretty sure he found what he was looking for.

Johnathan ‘John’ Egbert: April 13th, 1988- April 13th 2005

On Sunday, April 13th we tragically said goodbye much too soon to Johnathan ‘John’ Egbert. John, 17, was well known among his peers and teachers as a fun, lovable soul. A friend to all those who knew him, he was always playing a joke or making someone laugh. A junior at Skyhill High School, John excelled at math and computer engineering. His dream was to become a stand-up comedian.

John died in an explosion in Skyhill High School due to a malfunctioning heater. Four other students were also caught in the blast and perished. The cause of the malfunction is currently under investigation.

John is survived by his father, James Egbert. A memorial service for John and the other students will be held on Monday, April 21st, from 8am to 11am at Prosperity Funeral Home.

There was a picture of a smiling kid along with the article. Dave figured it looked like a school photo or something, but the important part was that it was definitely the trickster all right. He quickly saved the page, printing out a copy of the article as well for Rose to have and started looking up more about this whole explosion thing. A mysterious explosion seemed shady as fuck, after all. There seemed to be a lot of shit that people couldn’t quite figure out about this whole situation the more he looked into it. The biggest issue seemed to be about the other dead kids.

They weren’t found in the same place as John, and they didn’t have injuries like they were caught in an explosion. Dave could make a few guesses as to what happened, but there wasn’t anything he could say for certain without finding some autopsies or something.

The weirdest fucking part of all this was looking up John himself though. He found the kid’s Myspace of all things, which was a trip. It was almost entirely a tribute to shitty as fuck movies, and the autoplay started blaring ‘How Will I Live’ in his ears before he could pause it.

Dave made sure to save everything he came across, not sure how most of it would help but figuring it wouldn’t hurt any either.

Once he was sure he’d exhausted everything the internet had on John Egbert, Dave got up the website he’d found with all of the obituaries and clicked over to June. There was a bunch of people in their eighties and nineties, a couple of middle aged ones who’d died of things like heart attacks and strokes, and one case of a fatal car accident that killed a father and daughter.

Eventually, he found what he was pretty sure he was looking for. Thankfully there were pictures of the deceased next to each link to the full obituary, and the scraggly, unhappy looking face was very familiar.

Karkat Vantas: June 12th, 1999- June 4th, 2015

Karkat Vantas, 16 years, was lost much too young after a long battle against leukemia this Thursday. A strong spirit, he never let his struggles keep him from living life to the fullest. He spent his time developing a passion for writing and movies. Friends said his dream was to move to Hollywood and become a screen writer.

Karkat is survived by his Father, Alejandro Vantas, and his mother, Mora Vantas. A memorial service will be held on his birthday, June 12th, from 12pm-3pm at Kern Funeral Home.

Dave wrote down his name next to his slot of Rose’s list before printing out the page. He tried to look up and see if there was anything else about this Karkat guy that he could find, but other than a memorial Facebook page that was about it. It didn’t even seem like he had one himself when he was alive.

He guessed there wasn’t all that much to say about some poor sick kid.

Dave tried to search for some of the others, but without at least a first name it was pretty much impossible to track any of them down.

He decided to start texting Rose to let her know what he’d managed to find.

TG: yo rose
TG: im the detective
TG: its me
TT: I take it you managed to find something?
TG: hell yeah
TG: tricksters death seemed kinda fishy
TG: died in some big fiery explosion and there were like four other kids dead but not from the explosion
TG: normal shit youd think would be the case in creating a ghost
TT: That does seem rather strange.
TT: Were you able to find anything else about what the explosion might have been?
TG: yeah a little bit
TG: it had something to do with a broken heater
TG: ill give you the articles when you get home
TG: i also found out about that new spirit
TG: his names karkat
TT: Oh?
TT: And was his death equally as ominous?
TG: thats the weird thing
TG: it wasn’t
TG: just said the guy died from cancer
TG: seemed like the typical story youd see from make a wish
TT: Hmm…
TT: I must admit, I was expecting most of the deaths to be about as flashy as Tavros’.
TG: yeah same here
TT: I suppose that just means I need a bit more refining in my theory.
TT: This was to be expected with how little we know.
TG: yeah i guess so
TG: i cant really find anything on anyone else
TT: That’s fine.
TT: This was a very big help.
TT: Make sure you save those articles for me.
TG: way ahead of you
TT: Good.
TT: See you in a few hours.
TG: yeah see ya

Dave slipped his phone back into his pocket, continuing to click through the articles he’d found. There wasn’t much else for him to read though, at least not until they some fucking how managed to get the names of a couple more spirits. Figuring the further back in time the harder it would be to get info on them, the next easiest would be Bloodhound and then Vampire.

He figured some of them were probably lost causes for information. No one was getting close enough to Ringmaster to ask his name. Dave wondered if Casanova gave out his real name when trying to get people alone. He’d have to ask Dirk and see if he could find anyone who matched. The real trick as they went back further and further would be finding last names.

Dave eventually stopped rereading the articles and started playing an incremental game online for about an hour when his phone buzzed in his pocket. Pulling it out, he was pretty fucking surprised by who was messaging him.

TwinArmageddons started pestering turntechGodhead at 3:56pm

TA: yo 2hiit2taiin
TA: get iin the car
TA: we’re goiing 2hoppiing.
TG: holy shit youre alive
TG: oh wait fuck
TG: that was probably a really insensitive thing to say considering the situation
TA: fuck yeah iit wa2.
TA: ii’m cryiing my eye2 out over here DV.
TA: what ever wiill ii do?
TG: okay good to know you can still be a huge fucking asshole
TA: a2 iif that wiill ever change
TG: so uh
TG: whats up man
TA: ii already told you a22whiipe
TA: come out2iide and get iin my car.
TG: i didnt even know you had a car
TG: or that you like
TG: left the base
TA: and now you do.
TG: are we really going shopping
TG: is this how you deal with loss
TG: hole away for a couple weeks then blow all your money on cheap liquor and box sets of the golden girls
TA: that ii2 exactly how ii deal wiith lo22
TA: but that2 not what2 happeniing here.
TG: then what is happening here
TA: come out2iide and ii’ll tell you FUCK
TG: alright man hold your rolls for like two more seconds
TG: should i tell anyone about this
TA: no.
TA: thii2 2hiit ii2 2en2atiive
TG: alright but if rose comes back and finds me gone its gonna be hell on earth
TA: that won’t happen.
TG: if you say so man

Dave slipped his phone back into his pocket before putting his shoes on and starting downstairs. This was pretty freaky. Sollux was cool and all, but weren’t exactly best fucking friends or anything like that. The fact that Dave was apparently the first person he was going to after not speaking to anyone since Aradia was more concerning that comforting for him.

Walking outside, Dave saw that Sollux was indeed in a car out front. Figuring at this point it’d just be best to go with it, he slipped into the passenger seat. “So, what exactly are we doing here?” he asked as he buckled himself in. He had no fucking idea how Sollux drove after all and he wasn’t gonna risk anything.

“Where did you get attacked by Redglare?” Sollux asked, not seeming bothered to actually explain anything.

“Uh, behind the Shoprite? Why?” he asked, and Sollux started driving as he answered.

“Need to test something out where spirits have been. You’ve been seeing them the most, so congratulations, you’re my new tour guide on this haunted fucked up trip around town,” he says, which still doesn’t tell Dave much, but it’s better than mothering.

“Test what out? And that was weeks ago man, what’s the point of going there now?” he asked. They were almost at the grocery store now, since it was only a short walk from the house.

“I know, that’s the point of the test dumbass, to see how much this shitty machine I made to track spirits will be able to track,” Sollux said, finally seeming to start to explain shit. They pulled into the parking lot as Dave spoke.

“Oh, well, that sounds pretty cool man,” he started, “but uh, we already got magic shit to do that kind of stuff.”

“That can only show us where they are now, not where they’ve been, plus, I’m hoping this piece of shit can detect smaller amounts,” Sollux told him. Okay, Dave supposed that could be useful. He wasn’t sure how okay he was with realizing that Sollux had apparently just thrown himself into making some random ass machine to help them fight ghosts with when everyone thought he was too upset to move, but he guessed it was better than some coping mechanisms.

Dave led him back to where Redglare had attacked him. The bags of groceries he’d dropped were no longer there, but he hadn’t expected them to be. Sollux brought out some weird machine that kind of looked like a remote controller for one of those really expensive toy planes, but it also had a screen.

Sollux was grumbling to himself as he walked around the area, staring at the little screen the entire time. Dave couldn’t help but keep an eye on their surroundings, just in case this was some sort of common hangout for Redglare.

“I’m getting fuck all here, shit. You wouldn’t have happened to have been attacked by another spirit more recently? And not at Fefs house, the void shit messes with the readings,” Sollux asked, and Dave could tell that he wasn’t being serious about it but Dave figured Roxy wouldn’t be that upset if he told Sollux about what happened the other day.

“A couple of days ago I ran into Trickster and the new spirit in that forest behind Feferi’s house,” he said in about as blunt a tone as he could, surprise clear on Sollux’s face.

“Seriously? Damn Strider, you sure you ain’t doing this on purpose at this point?” he asked, and Dave just shrugged as they started back to the car.

“Man, I don’t know, but it’s a problem,” he said. Sollux started driving them in the direction of Feferi’s house, and Dave pointed him towards the road that led to where he and Roxy had ended up coming out afterwards. Once they parked Dave started leading him inside, although he wasn’t entirely sure which was the exact spot they’d fought in. Sollux just pulled his machine back out and started waving it around until he started picking up a stronger reading.

“Alright, fuck this is more of what I was looking for. You said this was a couple of days ago?” he asked and Dave nodded, leaning back against a nearby tree.

“Yeah, Roxy and I were out here looking for, um, a rabbit,” Dave stumbled slightly as he explained what they were doing, realizing how dumb it sounded. Sollux looked up from the screen to give him a look showing just how dumb he thought it sounded too.

He turned his head back to the machine without making any sort of quip though, and Dave noticed his frown deepen. Before he could ask what was going on Sollux started walking forward Dave having to follow him once he began to leave the clearing.

“Yo man, what’s up?” he asked, Sollux hushing him as he continued making his way through a very poorly made path, if it could even be considered a path at all. “Dude, are we tracking a spirit right now? Because I didn’t bring any weapons with me and I already told you if I don’t get home before Rose people are gonna freak again. My track record for this shit is pretty bad already man I don’t need to make it any worse.”

“Shut the fuck up, this is important,” Sollux muttered, not even seeming to consider stopping. Dave huffed but continued following him, because like hell was he gonna leave Sollux to possibly walk to his death. If he was trying this as some sort of idiotic suicide by ghost then he really shouldn’t have brought Dave along.

Fucking finally he came to a halt, stopping in front of one tree and looking around. Dave didn’t see anything, but if his weird ghost tracking thing was what led them here than he wanted to leave like five minutes ago.

“Alright, can we go now?” Dave asked, Sollux finally turning back around with a sigh.

“Yeah, yeah fine. Damn DV, a little walk in the woods isn’t going to kill you,” he said.

“Well. I certainly didn’t see this one coming.”

Dave spun around at the voice, Sollux following his action. When he caught sight of who it was, Dave couldn’t help but let out a loud groan of frustration.

“Oh come on!? Seriously, can you please just leave me alone?” he snapped at Redglare, her grin just growing even wider.

“Oh no Coolkid, you can’t be blaming this one on me. I’ve resigned myself to giving you and the rest of your little group as much cooldown time as you need, but it seems like you were the one who felt the need to come right up to my front door. Not that I can blame you for missing me,” she said, turning towards Sollux afterwards.

“Well, Mr. Appleberry Blast, this is different,” she added.

“Shit. Sorry DV, this was definitely not who I was looking for,” Sollux said, not taking his eyes off of Terezi.

“Oh boy. Have you gotten any sleep? No, of course you haven’t,” she said, making absolutely no fucking sense. Dave was pretty sure she was still talking to Sollux but how would she know if he’d been sleeping, and even more importantly, why the fuck would she care about something like that.

“Hey, if you were so resigned to leaving us alone, think you could keep at that and like, fucking leave?” Dave asked.

“Oh come on, this is obviously fate,” Terezi joked. Before Dave could tell her that if this was fate than fate was an even bigger bitch than he’d given it credit for Sollux spoke up.

“Hey, you’ve seemed to have gotten a hang of talking to ghosts and not getting completely obliterated, what the fuck do we do?” he asked. Dave frowned and shot him a glare, although he quickly turned his attention back to Redglare.

“Dude, it was your stupid machine that brought us here, I thought you would have a fucking plan,” he snapped.

“I said I wasn’t trying to find Redglare so why would I have a plan for accidentally running into Redglare? Come on this must be old news to you by now.”

“Boys, boys please,” Redglare spoke up. “You two dumb old bundles of nerves can relax. No one’s obliterating anyone here. I would like to know how you ended up finding me here though, especially since it doesn’t seem like it was all that planned out,” you said.

“Or we could not tell you and you could let us go anyway, is that an option?” Sollux asked, and Dave sighed. Redglare gave him a too wide to be natural smile and shook her head.

“If we tell you how we found you then you gotta tell us something. It’s only fair,” Dave said, figuring if they were going to have to give over what could be precious information, they might as well try to get something out of it themselves. Normally he wouldn’t exactly be all about negotiating with a fucking spirit, but he was starting to get a bit numb to all that.

Redglare started laughing at him, doubling over before straightening herself out and nodding.

“See, this is why I like you coolkid. You know what you want, I can appreciate that,” Redglare said, her unnerving grin still as wide as ever. “Alright, I’ll even let you go first! What do you want to know oh most tiniest of hunters?” she asked. Dave hadn’t actually thought of what it was that he wanted to know, it seemed like a pretty one off opportunity that he should take advantage of.

“Hey, do I get a say in any of this?” Sollux asked, and both Dave and Terezi shook their heads.

“Sorry man, you asked me to get us outta here alive, that’s what I’m doing,” Dave told him, before going back on thinking as to what to ask.

“How did you die?” he asked after a moment. It would pretty much be impossible to find out any other way after all, and the more they knew about this shit the better. Her smile faltered somewhat, and when it came back it wasn’t anywhere near as wide.

“Well, that’s certainly an interesting question! You really want to know?” she asked back and Dave just shrugged.

“Wouldn’t have asked it if I didn’t want to know,” he said.

“I don’t want to know,” Sollux added, but Terezi ignored him.

“Well if you insist,” she started. “I was killed, quite brutally! There’s a reason my eyes are like this you know! By my own sister no less! It’s a truly tragic tale,” she said. Dave nodded, wondering if he should pull out his phone and take notes. He figured he could do that once they were away and safe though.

“Well damn, why’d she go and do that?” he asked, wanting to get as much information as he could. Terezi’s smile was back full force now and the fact that it was there while talking about her own death was pretty damn unnerving.

“She blamed me for the fact that she was going to die. You can bet that she felt pretty awkward when she found out I had nothing to do with it!” Redglare said.

“Wow. That. Is pretty fucked up,” Dave managed to get out, Sollux nodding in agreement.

“That it most certainly is. Now you’re turn, how’d you manage to happen upon this charming little spot in the woods?” she asked, and Dave figured it probably meant that was all he was getting out of her on this subject. Still, better than what he knew before.

“I donno. Sollux, what the fuck is that thing and how’d we end up here?” Dave asked, elbowing Sollux in the side to get him to start speaking.

“Ugh, damn it DV this better not come back to bite us in the ass,” he said before holding up the little machine. “It’s something I made that can track the faint trails ghosts leave,” he explained. Redglare nodded, leaning in a bit closer to get a look at the device before nodding.

“Well, that’s neat. Have fun with randomly walking into places you probably shouldn’t be in, but that’s not my problem,” she said before taking a step back.

“Okay then, I guess I’ll let you go now. Go get some sleep Appleberry,” Redglare told Sollux before turning towards Dave. “And if you ever have any more questions, you know where to find me now,” she said, disappearing before either boy could get in another word.

“So, all to getting the fuck out of here before she comes back?” Sollux asked, and Dave nodded before turning around and starting to run the fuck away, the other boy close on his heels. Once they reached the edge of the forest Dave slowed down, Sollux panting heavily behind him.

“Dude, your tracker fucking sucks,” Dave told him once he seemed to have caught his breath.

“My tracker works fine, not my fault you happen to hang out where deadly ghost ladies are so readily available,” he snapped back.

“Let’s just get back before Rose realizes I left and freaks,” Dave said, Sollux nodding and starting over to the car. Dave wondered if he would get upset with him talking to Rose about this, but he kind of needed to so he could tell her about how Redglare died. She definitely matched the whole traumatic pattern most of them were seeing so far. The new spirit Karkat was still a bit of an outlier, but who knows.

Dave pulled his phone out as they got into the car, starting to take down notes of everything he remembered Redglare saying.

He also made a mental note about just where he could find her. He doubted he’d ever need to go to her for fucking questions, but she’d implied that was where she spent most of her time, so it was good to know if just to know to avoid it.

And if he did ever need anything, well, best to keep as many options open as you can, right?

---

After a few minutes Karkat sat down on the side of the road, John still nowhere to be seen. Jane and Jake did seem nice enough, Jake managing to keep any semblance of a conversation going pretty much entirely on his own. Which Karkat was thankful for because he sure as fuck wasn’t being the most entertaining person right now. He just nodded every so often and made the occasional comment when Jake said something about a movie he'd seen.

Something started rustling in the bushes behind him and Karkat stood up and turned around, not wanting to be caught off guard. After another second a small rabbit poked out from the leaves and Karkat felt like an idiot.

“Oh hey buddy! Where’ve you been?” Jane asked, kneeling down in front of it and okay Karkat was confused again. Actually focusing on the rabbit now he could see that while he just thought it was grey for a moment there it actually appeared to be made out of metal. Which… was something.

“I’ve been around. Right now it appears I’m right in front of you, where I was before that, who can rightfully say?”

And now it was talking.

God fucking damn it.

“I dare say you could probably say,” Jake said, and Karkat swore the rabbit managed to fucking shrug.

“There is a probability that I could, yes,” it said, and okay yeah Karkat couldn’t take this anymore. He was so fucking done with this bullshit why the hell was this what he considered his life now?

“There’s a rabbit. There’s a robot fucking rabbit and it’s talking. I’m a ghost. You think that would be the craziest thing to happen to me this month, but nope, that’s just the fucking tip of the crazy iceberg here. Hell, that’s not even the tip, it’s just like, the gentle snow landing on top,” Karkat rambled. The rabbit turned to him and Karkat couldn’t tell what it was thinking because how the fuck do you read the facial expressions on a robotic rabbit.

“It would seem that you are not all together pleased with my appearance. Is this more acceptable for you?” it asked, shifting so that it was now a little kid, like thirteen or something, with spiky blond hair and triangle shaped shades. There was something familiar about him but Karkat couldn’t quite place it. Honestly, this wasn’t helping in the slightest. He figured this was another ghost, but god damn it no one said they the changes to how they looked could be so damn drastic.

“No, not really but thanks for the attempt,” Karkat told him.

“Oh, Hal, this is Karkat. He’s new and was hanging out with John. Karkat, this is Hal,” Jane said. Karkat nodded, although he didn’t care at this point. He just wanted John to come back so that they could get the fuck out of here already.

“A pleasure,” Hal said, and Karkat just let out a long, slow sigh before nodding and dropping his head into his hands. It was okay, he could do this.

“Yeah, okay sure,” he answered, sitting back down in a huff. He couldn't do this. He just couldn’t deal with all these surprises one after the other. When he looked up the kid was a rabbit again and god damn it. Why? Why a fucking robot rabbit?

“Was talking to her as futile as I predicted?” the fucking rabbit asked.

“Even more so! Ugh, she is just so frustrating sometimes! We’re waiting for her to finish up talking with John right now,” Jane said, an exasperated tone to her voice.

“I think now would be an appropriate time to say, I told you so,” Hal said.

“You don’t know that for sure. Ol’ Johnny boy might be able to talk some sense into her,” Jake said.

“Or she could talk John into going along with her plans instead,” Hal countered. Karkat did not like that idea at all. Whatever Vriska was doing was dangerous as fuck and he was going to have nothing to do with it, no matter what John decided. It would just be really fucking inconvenient for him if John when on some suicide mission against a bunch of hunters and then he had to spend all his time hanging out with Terezi or something.

Also, he guessed that John dying would be pretty unfortunate in and of itself.

Thankfully it wasn’t too much longer before John was walking up to them. Karkat wanted to just get right the fuck out of there the second he saw him but he figured John would need to talk to these two about whatever it was Vriska decided to tell him. God, he just fucking hoped he wouldn’t actually go along with her. He knew John probably felt like he owed her but yeah fuck that.

“Hey, sorry for taking so long!” John called once he got close enough. Karkat wondered why he didn’t just teleport to be next to them and he figured he was either more tired than Karkat thought (and would probably have to eat soon which he did not want to think about) or he was trying to delay the inevitable.

“That’s not a problem ol’ chap! How’d your little talk go?” Jake asked.

“It went fine,” John started, only just then catching sight of the newest arrival. “Oh, um, hi Hal,” he said.

“Hello,” it said back and god this fucking thing was unnerving for some reason.

“But yeah, I wasn’t exactly able to talk her out of it but she said she’d consider holding off for now. I’m sure she’ll realize it’s a bad idea and not go through with it. We just gotta give her time is all,” John continued. Jane hummed softly before nodding.

“Well, I hope you’re right. Either way, we’re going to be keeping a close eye on her,” she said, John quickly nodding.

“Oh yeah of course! If you ever need any more help talking to her or anything at all just let me know,” he said.

“Will do pal! It certainly helps having someone she’ll lend an ear to,” Jake said.

“Okay, well I better get Karkat back and everything before the sun comes up. See you all around,” John said, and Karkat took that as his cue to stand up so they could get the fuck out of there. They all said goodbye and it wasn’t long before they were out of earshot and then out of sight and John let out a long sigh.

“Bluh, sorry about all that. How was hanging with Jake and Jane?” he asked, and Karkat simply shrugged.

“It was fine. They weren’t the most horrible people I’ve ever met,” Karkat assured him.

“Oh good. Yeah, they’re pretty nice, I thought you wouldn’t mind having to spend a little time with them. I didn’t know Hal was around but he’s not too bad” John told him. Karkat wasn’t able to hold back a frustrated sound at that reminder.

“Okay, what the fuck is with that? Why is he a rabbit? Why is he a robot?” he asked. John just sort of shrugged.

“I don’t know. I don’t know much of anything about him at all actually. He’s weird. He’s only been a ghost for a year less than me, but he really only hangs around Jane and Jake. I have no clue why he’s a rabbit most of the time,” John told him, which didn’t answer anything but at least he wasn’t the only one baffled by it.

“So, what’s this whole plan that Vriska has planned?” Karkat asked. They were starting to get close to the construction site which he was thankful for. It was starting to get early and Karkat still didn’t like being out during the daytime at all.

John sighed heavily again at his question, running a hand through his hair.

“It’s dumb. So dumb. She wants to raid their base. Apparently Terezi told Tavros where it is so now she knows and is all determined to get her dumb ball back,” John said. Yeah, that did sound pretty fucking dumb to Karkat, but it also raised several questions.

“Ball?” he figured that was whatever was stolen, but seriously, all this over a ball? What kind of ball would be worth this? It had better be made of pure fucking diamonds or some shit.

“Yeah, some weird magic ball she has. I don’t pay much attention to the magic stuff myself, so I’m not sure exactly what it does but she’s really upset that they took it,” John said. Alright, he supposed magic could work too. Before all this Karkat would have argued that a magic ball sounded like the fakest piece of crap he’d ever heard of, but boy was he learning a lot of shit recently.

“Do you really think she’ll not go through with it? Maybe it’s just me but she doesn’t seem like the type to fucking back out of a plan,” Karkat asked. They reached the construction site and John crawled into the pipe first, Karkat following after him as he answered.

“I don’t know. I sure do hope that she doesn’t. She’ll be fine, they won’t mess with her, but they’d really start hitting hard at people like me and Jade and Kanaya. We’re strong, but not invincible, and I don’t want to lose any friends,” John said. Karkat nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, she needs to fucking stop,” he said.

“I might go back to talk to her again tomorrow night or something. I just didn’t want to get in the middle of it with Jane and Jake there. She might have taken it as me choosing them over her, ya know?” John said. Karkat shrugged, since he didn’t have much experience with shit like this.

“Sounds to me like she’s just desperate for approval and batshit crazy,” Karkat said. That managed to get a small laugh out of John, which he hadn’t been expecting.

“Yeah okay, that’s true too,” John agreed. It was quiet for a few moments, and Karkat was pretty sure that he should probably just go to sleep soon when John spoke up again.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” he asked, catching Karkat off guard.

“Fine. Why?” he asked, John shrugging slightly.

“I hate to do it now with tensions so high, any wrong step could just add fuel to the fire, but I’m really hungry. I hadn’t eaten for a long while before finding you, and it’s been at least a month since then,” John said and Karkat felt himself freeze up. Oh, so he was right. John was getting weak from not eating. Shit.

“You can go do whatever, I’m not hungry,” he said, shifting to face away from him and lay like he was going to go to sleep. God, he was trying not to think about this crap. It was seriously unnerving and horrible and he just did not want to deal with it. He could hear John sighing behind him.

“You can’t put if off forever, you know,” he said and Karkat scoffed at that.

“Watch me,” he said, closing his eyes because he was not having this conversation. Nope, not at all.

“I’ll be right back,” John said. Karkat waited a moment and when he changed taking a peek behind him the space was empty and he sighed loudly. They said it got easier, they said you get used to it but he didn’t fucking think that would happen. He didn’t want to be a killer. He didn’t want to die either though.

He was fucking trapped and there was nothing he could do and he absolutely hated it.

He wasn’t able to get back to sleep by the time John came back, but he fucking wished he did. He didn’t want to have to hear him crawl back into the tube and be reminded that he’d just killed someone. He was staying with a serial killer and one of these days he was going to have to go out and do the same thing and he didn’t want to damn it.

“Hey, you okay?” John asked, and Karkat forced himself to nod, not trusting his voice right now. “Just don’t think about it,” he suggested, and honestly, that was the best advice he’d gotten about this bullcrap so far.

“How the fuck do you live with yourself?” Karkat asked, the words leaving him before he could think to stop them. John was quiet for a long time, and he thought he wasn’t even going to answer him for a while until John started chuckling.

“That’s an easy one. I don’t,” he said, and Karkat almost wanted to laugh himself the joke was so fucking terrible. Karkat couldn’t even count all the ways it was horrible, but even still he was almost at the point where he needed to either laugh or cry.

He managed to keep from doing either, but it wasn’t all that fun.

The next night John decided that he did want to go and talk to Vriska about all of this again. Karkat didn’t blame him, it seemed fucking serious and it John could drag some sense into her he’d want him to do it as soon as possible.

He just wasn’t all that comfortable with being left alone again.

Of course, he told John it was fine, that he could take as much fucking time as he needed to get her to change her mind and that no, he did not want to come along he was perfectly fucking fine staying in his little hideout thank you very much.

John had been gone for maybe an hour when Karkat heard someone walking into the site. For a moment he thought it might have been him coming back, and he wondered how it had possibly managed to be such a short visit.

He didn’t usually hear John walking around though. He stayed stone still in the pipe, hoping that maybe it was just some delinquent teenagers wanting to hang out somewhere dangerous at night or some shit. Maybe whoever it was wouldn’t notice him.

Maybe it wasn’t a hunter maybe it wasn’t a hunter maybe it wasn’t a hunter.

“Hello? Is anyone here?” A voice called that he didn’t recognize. It sounded like a woman, and Karkat didn’t bother calling back. Fuck that noise.

“Hello? I know you’re around here somewhere,” they continued, the voice coming closer. “Karkat, was it?”

If he still had a heart it would have stopped but as it was it still came pretty damn close. The footsteps kept getting closer and holy fuck how did they know his name? Was it a spirit? Please oh fuck please let it be a spirit.

“There you are,” they said, their head sticking into the end of the pipe. Karkat couldn’t help but scramble back some, looking over what he could see of her in the low light. It was a girl, and she looked like the girl who’d been with that hunter in the forest, but it wasn’t her. She also looked like that douchebag hunter, which was even more concerning.

“Who the fuck are you?” he asked, continuing to move backwards in the pipe without breaking eye contact, planning to come out the other side and maybe try to make a break for it.

“A pleasure to meet you too. My name is Rose,” she said. Karkat felt himself slip when he reached the end up the pipe, quickly jumping up to his feet. She had already managed to clear over half of the distance he’d put between them by then though and he got a feeling that running would not be a good idea.

“How the fuck do you know my name?” he asked. If John or Terezi or someone had given it to her, then she was probably an ally.

She looked like those hunters though and there was no fucking way that was a coincidence god he was so dead.

“I suppose technically I have my brother to thank for that, but it was nothing a few google searches couldn’t find out,” she said, and okay he was kind of lost here.

“What the fuck? You know what, it doesn’t matter. What do you want with me?” he asked, continuing to step back. Every time he did she continued to close the distance and oh god he hoped John came back soon. It still seemed way too early to come back though and fuck he was dead. Again.

“I just want to ask you a few things. I’m sure we can reach a compromise where we both come out of here happy,” she said, and Karkat couldn’t stop the frown that fell over his face as he shot her a glare.

“And how the hell do you imagine that?” he asked. Okay, this was a hunter. There was no fucking way she wasn’t a hunter. He could barely handle the deadly ladies on his side he had no idea what he was supposed to do here.

“It’s really simple. You answer all of my questions, and I won’t kill you,” she said. Yeah okay, that’s about what he expected from this.

“Sure, but I don’t know fucking shit. If you want someone knowledgeable about ghosts you came to the wrong one,” he said, but Rose just waved it off.

“I’m sure you know more than I do. Let’s start off simple, could you tell me the full names of as many spirits as you can?” she asked, pulling out a fucking pad of paper and a pen of all things.

“Are you serious right now?” he snapped.

“Very.”

Maybe it was some sort of ghost treason but fuck he was going to do whatever he could to keep himself alive here.

“I don’t know many full names. I think the only full ones I know are Jane Crocker and Jake English, and even then I’m not too sure if that’s right,” he said. Sorry, but he only met them last night so if he was throwing them under a bus it wasn’t as big of a deal as anyone else. Rose nodded, jotting the names down.

“Any other first names? Even that’s helpful,” she asked.

“Just John, and Vriska,” he said, figuring he couldn’t lie about not knowing John’s name and not really caring if he tattled on Vriska. They were already pissed at her enough at it is, if it threw the attention off of him it was worth it.

“Are you sure about that? There were sightings of you with the Ringmaster, and it’s believed you know Redglare as well,” she said. Karkat raised an eyebrow at those names.

“You’re gonna have to be more specific as to who the fuck you mean because those names are ridiculous,” he said, even though he was pretty sure he had a feeling he knew who Redglare was.

“A spirit who has his face painted like a clown, and a spirit with eyes that are constantly bleeding,” she clarified. Karkat couldn’t help but twitch at that because how the fuck did they know about that shit.

“Gamzee and Terezi,” he muttered, hoping she wouldn’t press for anyone else. She nodded again, and she was barely even looking at him it was frankly insulting. Like she didn’t think of him as a threat in the slightest.

He probably wasn’t to her.

“Thank you,” she said, and holy fuck Karkat hated this. “Now, is you’re absolutely sure those are all the names you know, there’s something else I would like to ask you.”

“Like I have a choice,” Karkat mumbled, but she just ignored his quip and continued speaking.

“Do you know why you become a ghost? From what we can tell, it certainly isn’t everyone who ever died,” she asked. Karkat huffed, because yeah he supposed he knew, but he just didn’t like the idea of telling this hunter anything more than the bare minimum.

“Yeah. It’s pretty simple,” he said, catching something moving behind her out of the corner of his eyes. He tried not to let her see him glance at it, giving an overdramatic shrug and rolling his eyes, feeling relief rush through him when he caught a clear sight of who it was.

“I’m surprised you weren’t able to figure it out yourself, you seem pretty smart,” he said, wishing they would just hurry up already. Rose was about to say something when there was a sharp claw like finger nail running across her throat and the words died on her tongue.

“Very smart Lalonde, cornering the hapless little newbie while he was all on his lonesome,” Terezi said before stepping away from her again, appearing next to Karkat in another instant. “You know, I’m trying to leave you all alone, but if you keep coming to my house and harassing the helpless I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do!”

Rose cleared her throat, taking a step back and trying to hide the fear obviously coming off of her in waves.

“I didn’t intend to cause him any harm,” she said and Terezi just sighed, slumping forward and waving Rose away dismissively.

“Yeah yeah, just get out of here already before I start reconsidering just how bad of an idea it would be to kill you,” she said. Rose nodded, and to her credit she didn’t go running, calmly turning around and walking out of the construction site without another word.

Once she was out of sight Karkat slumped to the ground, groaning in frustration.

“The one fucking time John leaves to go talk to Vriska,” he muttered.

“She’s probably been waiting to catch you alone, it was bound to happen eventually,” Terezi told him. He nodded, because yeah okay that made sense.

“Thanks,” he grumbled. Sure, she said she wasn’t going to kill him if he answered all her questions, but there was no fucking way to be sure she was going to hold through on that promise.

“Not a problem. These young hunters really have to learn to stop sticking their noses into places they don’t belong,” she said. Karkat nodded in agreement, too run down to feel like speaking all that much.

Terezi sat down next to him after a moment, the smile on her face less threatening than ususal.

“Guess I’m hanging out here until John gets back from trying to talk sense into a wall,” she said. Karkat was really fucking thankful for that, even if he didn’t want to quite show it.

“Yeah, I guess you are,” he said.

Chapter Text

Karkat tried his best to relax now that the hunter was gone and Terezi was staying with him until whenever John decided to get back. Who fucking knows how long that’ll take with Vriska though. Especially since he was trying to change her fucking mind on something. That in itself seemed like a god damn impossible task, but he’d seemed convinced that he could do it.

Terezi wasn’t trying to fuck with him for now, which he was thankful for. He wasn’t sure how much of her bullshit he could handle, because it just seemed like everything was slowly escalating and none of it was in his control. Whenever it seemed to calm down even the slightest bit something new smacked him across the face and it always somehow managed to be even worse than the last thing he’d just seen.

“So, think you could give me an honest estimation on how bad I just shit the bed here? On a scale of one to Hunter Murder what am I looking at?” he asked after a moment, starting to get worried that telling that hunter the names of so many people was an insanely dumb move. He wasn’t sure how the fuck that information would be useful in any way, but he was starting to realize that he knew jack fucking shit about the world he was thrust into. Terezi just shrugged, waving away his concern with a nonchalant flick of her wrist.

“Oh relax will you? You’re like, barely below ‘just ended up throwing the clown into a murderous rage, pissing off Mr. Dorito Man and throwing us into an awkward stalemate only to be aggravated further by frustrating girls doing whatever they want without thinking of the consequences’ on the scale,” she said. Karkat groaned and let his head fall onto his knees.

“I don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about and it sounds awful,” he grumbled. She started laughing at him, shoving his shoulder lightly.

“It is awful, but it’s also a joke. It’s no big deal if they know our names, it’s nothing to worry about,” she said. Karkat glared at her but he couldn’t really be all that angry about it.

“Ha fucking ha, I’m just giggling up a storm at your hilarious joke. You sure know how to lighten a mood, god damn,” he still snarked. He was relieved that it wasn’t anything serious, but he didn’t like the fact that she wanted those names in the first place. There had to be a reason they wanted them, right? He didn’t trust fucking anything the hunters might be planning.

It was maybe two or three hours later when John finally returned. This time, Terezi didn’t disappear before he saw her, and Karkat had no doubt that she was staying on purpose. He didn’t know how but she could definitely fucking tell if he was coming or not. Karkat on the other hand was completely clueless and just barely managed to keep himself from jumping at the sudden appearance.

“Jesus fuck, do you have to pop up out of bumfuck nowhere every god damn time?” he snapped. John just smiled sheepishly at him before noticing Terezi, the smile falling from his face at a rather impressive speed.

“Sorry,” he said to Karkat before turning his attention over to the other spirit. “Is something going on?” he asked, sounding worried. Terezi pushed herself up off of the ground before answering.

“I should be asking you that question. Also, this dummy got cornered by a hunter while you were gone. You’re welcome for saving him, by the way,” she said. John spun around to Karkat, looking him over for any damage.

“Oh shit! Are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be gone that long. I thought the hunters weren’t going out with everything so tense,” he said, speaking a mile a minute and yeah, Karkat supposed this was a thing worth freaking out about, at least a little bit.

“It’s fine, she didn’t do shit since Terezi showed up. Plus she said she wouldn’t kill me if I answered her questions,” Karkat tried to reassure him. Terezi scoffed at that, giving Karkat a skeptical look.

“And you actually believed her? If I hadn’t shown up she would have taken you out the second she got the information she wanted. You’re way too much of a wildcard for them to be taking any chances with,” she said. Karkat could fucking feel the dread running through him at that, having calmed down a bit before but that was fucking gone now.

“Wait, are you serious or is this another one of your ‘jokes?’” he asked. Terezi didn’t seem nearly as freaked out by this, but he guess that made sense if it was something she knew from the beginning.

“I know it’s not a fun thing to accept, but just because someone promises you something doesn’t mean they’re going to hold through on that. A few of those hunters, you might be able to get away with that, but the majority of them? They’re a lot more ruthless than they look,” she said.

“Terezi’s right, don’t ever trust them, especially if you end up alone with one. Maybe try to buy some time by playing along with whatever games they might have, but get out of there the first chance you have, okay?” John said, actually sounding serious for once. That just showed even more so how close he was to getting fucked right out of existence just now.

“It’s not like I was hanging out with her on purpose you know. I don’t exactly have many means of protecting myself here,” he muttered, although he knew they were right. It has been dumb as all fuck not to think that she wouldn’t try to take him out the first chance she had. It’s not like it would cause much backfire. John didn’t want to attack them, and Karkat doubted his death would change that. He highly doubted that anyone else would give a single crap. It definitely wouldn’t change Terezi’s opinion on things. She’d probably seen a million people like him come and go in her time.

“Alright then, if we have that all squared away, I do believe there are a few things that we need to talk about, isn’t there Egbert?” Terezi said, bringing her focus back onto John. The other spirit sighed loudly, it obvious as fuck that this was not something he wanted to do in the least.

“I don’t know what you want me to tell you! I know for a fact that you’ve been shadowing Vriska, there’s no way you don’t know what her plan is,” John said. Karkat tried to pull himself out of his own pathetic musings to pay attention to them. He had a feeling that this whole Vriska thing was going to determine just how likely he was to survive through the next year, so he might as well try to keep up to date on it.

“Of course I know what her plan is! I’ve known for literal ages that she was going to try to start up something like this! Do you really think that she’s coddled and protected and attempted to varying degrees of success to train you and Tavros out of the goodness of her heart?” Terezi snapped at him. A frown made its way onto John’s face and there was something about his expression that unsettled Karkat.

“And just what do you mean by that? Why she decided to help me is none of your business,” he said. Terezi sighed, shaking her head in a bemused way.

“See, this is what you just don’t understand. When her little plans start putting others in danger it becomes my business,” she said.

“Well I’m not one of her little plans, okay? I’m not Tavros!”

“The sad thing is that you actually believe that. Maybe there is some truth to it. I guess at some point she could have developed some genuine affection for you, I wouldn’t put it past her. Although I guess it wasn’t enough for her to be bothered by making a backup in case you failed.”

Karkat took a few steps back, fucking hoping it wouldn’t draw any attention to him. He doubted that it would. John looked absolutely fucking pissed, while Terezi didn’t seem very phased at all. He had little to no clue what the fuck they were talking about, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t something he wanted to get in the middle of.

It took him a moment to realize that there was wind whipping around John, and he didn’t know what that meant but it probably wasn’t good.

The next thing Karkat knew John was standing where Terezi had been, the pipe behind her now sporting a large dent that had not been there before. Terezi herself was nowhere to be seen, until a sigh sounded a little ways away. Head shooting towards it, Karkat saw her standing on some old wooden beams.

“Got it out of your system yet?” she asked. Once again in a flash too fast for Karkat to see John had taken her place, the beams crashing to the ground and splintering. This time he knew to look around to see where Terezi had gotten off to, and this time she was sitting on a pile of smaller rusted pipes.

This continued until much of the abandoned site was broken in all new ways. They stayed in a pretty large circle around Karkat, and he had a feeling that Terezi was doing that on purpose.

“Would you just fight me already!?” John snapped after smashing another metal frame where Terezi had previously stood.

“No.”

John spun around, wind whipping with him to jump at the spot the other spirit had been directly behind him. He let out a loud groan of frustration at the empty air he was met with. “Stop that!” he yelled.

“You stop throwing a dumb tantrum and I will,” was Terezi’s reply, which didn’t seem to calm him down much at all.

“I’m not throwing a tantrum!” John barked, teleporting after her. “You just!” a loud crash from him slamming into a pile of already broken beams. “Piss me off!” the hallow ringing of one of the largest pipes nearly getting bent completely in half. “So much!” a sizable hole smashed into the fence around the area.

He didn’t teleport again after that, standing where he was and almost growling, the wind swirling around him starting to die down some.

“Finally finished?” Terezi asked, reappearing a few feet away from Karkat.

“Fuck off.”

“Come on now, don’t be like that. I’m pretty sure you just up and traumatized poor little Karkat nearly back to death here,” she said, and it was god damn incredible how fast John’s demeanor changed. He jumped up from where he’d been slouching angrily by the fence to turn and stare at Karkat, eyes wide with surprise like he’d completely forgotten he was there. Karkat was pretty sure he had.

“Oh! Oh fuck Karkat I’m so sorry!” he said but Karkat just started shaking his head because he did not want to be involved with this.

“I’m fine! God damn fantastic, just please whatever the fuck is going on right now leave me out of it,” he said. John opened his mouth to protest, but before he could Terezi spoke up.

“Well then! Since Karkat is fine and you’ve worked through your little hissy fit, can we please talk now?” she asked. John turned and glared at her, clearly not taken so off guard by remembering that Karkat was a thing that existed to forget how pissed off he was at the other spirit.

“We could have talked from the beginning if you hadn’t immediately gone and picked a fight!” he argued. Terezi simply shook her head once again, looking exasperated with John.

“I was only saying my perception of what is going on, you’re the one who started trying to attack me. But because I’m such a wonderful forgiving person, I’ll look past that and get to the point I was trying to make earlier,” she said. The wind that had died down around John started back up again.

“Oh would you stop that! As much as you don’t want to accept it, I’m trying to look out for your best interest too. You know attacking the hunters is a bad idea,” Terezi snapped at him. John sighed, but the wind died down once again and seriously, Karkat had no idea that was a thing he could do but fuck if he wasn’t impressed and just the slightest bit terrified.

“Yes I do! But she won’t listen to me, okay? I’ve been trying my best to talk her out of it but there’s nothing I can do,” he said, the anger in his voice starting to shift into worry. Terezi sighed heavily and nodded.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought would happen. Like I said, I’ve seen this coming. You won’t be able to talk her out of it, that’s not why I’m here. I don’t expect you to,” she said. That actually seemed to catch John off guard, confusion clear on his face.

“Well everyone else seems to expect me too. No one seems to remember that I’m new at this still! I’m not all ancient and powerful like the rest of you and those hunters could still kill me and everyone just seems to forget all about that!” he shouted, sounding more and more upset as he spoke.

“I know that, you dummy. I told you that it becomes my business when Vriska’s plans start to put people in danger, and guess what, that includes you too,” Terezi said. John was avoiding looking at her now, kicking at the dirt.

“Can you just say whatever it is you’ve wanted to say already?” he asked.

“I’d be happy to,” she said, sounding pleased as fucking punch. Her tone drastically changed when she started speaking again though.

“Don’t let Vriska talk you into helping her. I know you feel obligated to with everything she’s done for you, and because you’re just generally a nice guy who doesn’t want to let a friend do something dangerous on their own. It’d be suicide for you though, you said it yourself that you’re not the unstoppable force Vriska likes you insist you are,” she said. John was quiet for a moment before nodding.

“Yeah, I know, it’s just… ugh, how do you even say no to her?” he asked, and Terezi actually laughed at that.

“It’s a struggle, I’m well aware,” she said. John just nodded in agreement, and he didn’t look nearly as angry or upset as he had been only a few moments ago.

Karkat wasn’t too sure what it was he’d just witnessed, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t actually any of his business. He was also pretty damn sure that everything was way fucking more complicated than he’d even began to give it credit for, and he’d already been thinking that it was pretty god damn complicated.

He knew everything was on edge, but he hadn’t realized that John was genuinely scared for his survival. He’d been too focused on his own fear to even begin to think about John’s. Sure, it was pretty reasonable considering everything he’d been going through and the fact that he was thrust so suddenly into all of this, but it still made him feel like an ass.

“Listen, I’m not expecting you to control Vriska, but she will tell you things that she wouldn’t tell me. If you find out anything important, please let me know, because as fun as it is messing with you, we’re not actually enemies here,” Terezi said. John didn’t even attempt to argue with her, just nodding.

“Yeah okay, I will. I guess it’s kind of easy to forget that we’re all on the same side sometimes,” he said.

“It’s only easy when you have Vriska in your ear constantly telling you otherwise,” Terezi joked. She let out a loud yawn afterwards, stretching her arms up above her head. “Well then, I should head out. Keep me posted Egbert. Oh, and Mr. New Guy?” Karkat jumped at that, not expecting to be addressed again, at least not until she left.

“Yeah?” he asked tentatively.

“Hope you’re having fun, because boy this is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said before disappearing. This time when Karkat looked around he didn’t see her anywhere, and he guessed that meant she was gone for good.

It was quiet for a moment, because holy fuck Karkat had no god damn idea what the hell he was supposed to say after all of that. He kind of had the feeling that he shouldn’t have even been there for it, but apparently if he strayed too far away from anyone there were hunters just waiting in the wings to pick him off.

“Ugh, I’m so sorry about all that,” John spoke up at last. Now that Terezi was gone and he’d calmed down he looked like he wanted to just crawl into a hole for a while. “It’s just, ugh. She knows exactly how to piss me off and then she goes and pushes all of my buttons and pretends that she had no idea what she was doing and it’s so stupid!”

Karkat could tell that he was starting to work himself up again and yeah okay that was the last thing he wanted to deal with right now. Terezi wasn’t here to teleport around him until he wore himself out either, and Karkat hadn't quite gotten the hang of that little trick yet. Or even a vague idea of it.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s frankly none of my business, so we can just pretend this never happened if you want,” he said. He sort of hoped they did that, even though he really fucking wanted to know what the hell was going on. He didn’t trust this Vriska person to begin with and now it sounded like she was using John for her own plans and he didn’t fucking like that at all.

“No, you deserve some sort of explanation. First I put you in danger by leaving you alone and then I freak out in front of you and just bluuuh,” John said, flopping to the ground. “I’m sorry, I’ve never dealt with anything like this before. Things had been pretty calm up until Vriska had to kill Tavros and now everything’s been awkward and dumb and for some reason people think Vriska will actually listen to me!” Karkat walked over and sat down next to him, since there wasn’t any point in standing.

“You should tell those people to fuck off. She’s not your responsibility,” he said, since that was what he would do.

“I can’t do that. Jake and Jane are just trying their best to keep everything stable and Vriska definitely won’t listen to them,” John said. Karkat rolled his eyes, but he guessed they were talking about this. Never mind the fact that he had almost no backstory on this whole ordeal.

“But you just said she won’t listen to you either, so it doesn’t matter,” he argued. John groaned and rested his head on his knees.

“I know! But I still have to try! She’s not a bad person, I really believe that. Or, she is kind of a bad person, but she’s trying to change. She just needs some help, you know?” he said. Karkat was very tempted to scoff at that, but he figured he should try not to be a complete asshole here.

“That’s still not your responsibility though. Maybe she needs to get the shit knocked out of her a few times in order to learn,” he said. The other spirit simply shrugged, still not lifting his head up to look at Karkat.

“Maybe,” John muttered. “Look, I told Terezi I won’t go help Vriska with her dumb plans, okay? I’m sure she’ll understand,” he said. Karkat didn’t quite believe that last thing, but he did suppose that John knew Vriska a heck of a lot better than he did. As long as she didn’t force him into shit it should be fine.

“Alright then. If you’re not putting yourself in the direct line of fire from hunters I don’t give a shit what Vriska does,” Karkat said. John chuckled and nodded at that.

“Don’t worry, I don’t plan on dying again anytime soon,” he said. Neither of them said anything for a few moments, and Karkat figured that while now might not be the best time, he really fucking needed to know something.

“Hey, can I ask you something? Since you said I deserve some answers?” he asked. John seemed surprised at the question but quickly nodded.

“Yeah of course! What is it?”

“Who the fuck is Tavros and why do you hate him?” Karkat asked. John groaned at the question and let his head flop back down onto his knees, his finger phasing into the ground as he dragged his hand around.

“Ugh, he’s no one. I mean, he’s someone. Another spirit. The newest guy before you came along. Vriska turned him into a spirit for some reason. Everyone says he’s a nice guy and I guess he kinda is? He just really annoys me sometimes,” John explained. Karkat supposed that all made sense. He’d already figured that it was another spirit, and people had mentioned Vriska having killed him before.

“Are you sure he ‘just really annoys’ you? There’s no other reason why you might dislike him at all?” he asked. Sure, it was none of his business, but it was pretty damn obvious that John’s feelings for the dude went past normal annoyance.

“Yes, I’m definitely sure,” John said, and Karkat just stared at him. Because seriously? The other boy looked away and huffed. “I mean, kinda?” he muttered. “Like, everyone’s always saying that Vriska replaced me with him, but that’s not true. She can help more than one person if she wants to and I’m perfectly fine with that!”

Annnd there it is. Expect for that last part of course, it was plain as day that he was not fine with that, but with the way he’d reacted to Terezi’s taunting earlier it was probably best not to press that.

“Makes sense to me,” is what he said instead, John nodding emphatically.

“Right? No one else gets that though. I’d already had started taking care of myself a lot more by then, and he didn’t even want her to help him after he became a spirit. He ran off pretty fast, and since Vriska’s the one who got him all angry and killed him I don’t even blame him for that. Point is he can do whatever he wants and I don’t care. I just don’t get why Vriska keeps insisting on helping him all the time! He doesn’t want it, he’s a waste of her time,” John rambled. Karkat just nodded as he listened, figuring it was best to just let him get it out.

“Sounds like it,” he said, although John wasn't listening to him all that well, it was clear.

“Exactly! It’s all so dumb, and Terezi knows all of this and she thinks Vriska is playing both of us. I don’t know what the point of that would be though. Maybe if Tavros was actually useful for something, but I’m just surprised he lasted this long to be honest,” Karkat just kept nodding.

“So yeah, that’s who Tavros is,” John said, running a hand through his hair. Karkat almost fucking laughed at that, because his attempt to be nonchalant about it was horribly undermined by the ranting and raving he’d been doing just a few moments ago.

“Surprised I haven’t met him yet with the amount of spirits I keep stumbling face first into,” Karkat said. John just shrugged at that.

“Eh, I don’t see him much. He just kind of does his own thing,” he said, and yeah, Karkat really bet that he didn’t see him much.

“Sorry about earlier, again,” John said after a moment, and Karkat shook his head.

“I told you it’s fine, don’t worry about it,” he said.

“And you’re sure that hunter didn’t hurt you any?” John asked.

“She didn’t even touch me. She was just asking me the names of all the spirits I met. Terezi said it wasn’t a big deal that I told her?” he asked more than said, figuring it was a good idea to get a second opinion on that.

“I can’t see what they’d want to do with our names. I don’t think you need to worry about it,” he said, and Karkat breathed a sigh of relief at that.

“Okay good,” he said. Karkat turned to look at the pipe they usually stayed in, taking in the rather ruined state of the rest of the construction site as he did. There was a huge dent in the pipe now that would make staying in it slightly less comfortable.

“Are your temper tantrums usually this fucking destructive?” Karkat asked.

“Sorry,” John repeated, “and uh, I don’t know, probably?” Karkat sighed, shaking his head. “Maybe we should find somewhere else to stay for a while,” John suggested.

“Later, right now I just want to get some sleep,” Karkat said, standing up and getting inside the now dented pipe. He wasn’t even all that tired but he could not fucking handle any more excitement tonight, and so the best bet to keep things from happening was to stay very still and out of sight.

“Yeah okay, that’s probably a good idea,” John said, appearing in the tube next to him. “Um, goodnight Karkat,” he added on. Karkat shifted so that he was lying down as much as the pipe allowed him to.

“Yeah, goodnight or whatever,” he muttered back. It was nearly morning, but that didn’t matter all that much when you were only active at night anyway.

He knew this wasn’t how things always were for the ghosts. Apparently there were times when shit was a lot calmer. He’d yet to see it though, so it was pretty hard to believe.

And if shit kept going the way it did, he doubted he’d survive long enough to.

---

Sollux might have broken a few rules of the road getting Dave back home, but with no cops around who’s to say for sure?

“Dude, I am never going on an unprompted impulse adventure with you ever again, that fucking sucked,” Dave said as they slowed to a stop. Seriously, he needed to stop fucking running into spirits while off the job. This was not a habit he wanted to continue at all.

“Fucking fantastic, because you are hereby banned from all future adventures. Sorry DV but your luck is way too shitty,” Sollux said. Dave rolled his eyes and opened the car door.

“It’s a talent,” he said. He could have just shut the door at that and headed back inside, but when he took one last look at Sollux, it was very god damn clear what a mess the dude still was. “Now go home and fucking eat something. And listen to the crazy murder spirit and get some sleep, you look more dead than she did,” he said.

“Your kindness, it warms my cold dead heart,” Sollux snipped. “But yeah whatever sure, now get out of here before we both end up having to face the wrath of your hell twin,” he said.

“Later dude,” Dave said, shutting the door and heading towards his house. Sollux had started driving away before he even made it inside, and Dave guessed he didn’t want to risk running into a pissed off Rose. He wasn’t immediately bombarded when he entered the house however, so he figured they must have made it before she got back. That didn’t change the fact that he was going to talk to her and still get yelled at, but it delayed it for a little while longer.

Sitting down on the couch, Dave pulled his phone out of his pocket. He sent his twin a message saying ‘you rose no need to freak seriously but we gotta talk when you get home. found some new info on redglare’ before putting it away again.

It wasn’t that much longer, maybe a half an hour or so before she came walking through the front door. She didn’t seem surprised to see him still hanging about in the living room, and Dave figured he could have went to his room and she would have come and found him, but this was just simpler.

“So, Redglare once again?” Rose asked and Dave just nodded.

“Yeah, not hers or my fault this time though, we can blame this one all on Sollux,” he said, standing up off the couch. “My room?” he asked, since he didn’t want to risk Roxy or Dirk coming home while they were in the middle of talking about this. Or even fucking worse, Mom or Bro. God, he didn't even want to imagine that potential shitstorm.

“Sollux?” Rose asked, sounding surprised as hell and yeah Dave didn’t blame her for that. She nodded at his second question, and the two quickly made their way up to his room. The second Dave had shut the door she turned to him and started speaking.

“I wasn’t aware Sollux had even left the base, let alone that he was in a state to somehow get mixed up with Redglare,” she said. Dave just shrugged and flopped down onto his bed.

“Yeah me either, but I get a text from the dude telling me to come outside and he’s there in his car. Did you know he has a fucking car? I didn’t,” he began to explain. “But anyway, he’s there and asking me to take him places I’ve been attacked by ghosts, so I do because he’s out of his room and wanting to do stuff and’s got this weird little machine I guess he made.”

Rose nodded, listening intently as he explained what had happened. Dave was sure she was going to grill him until she got all of the details out so it was best to say as much as possible from the start so that the interrogation was lessened.

“So I take him to where I first ran into Redglare, but the machine isn’t working so he asks if I’ve run into any spirits more recently,” Dave stops there. Whoops, he guessed he had to spill the beans on his and Roxy’s little secret. “And first of all don’t get pissed, but like, while we were staying with Feferi Roxy and me might have run into Trickster and Newguy in that forest behind her house.”

Rose’s eyebrows lifted at that, but the surprise on her face quickly turned into aggravation.

“It just never stops with you, does it?” she asked, sounding almost exhausted in a way.

“Nope, guess not. So I take him there and we run into Redglare, because apparently she lives around there or something? And the machine was made to track spirits? I don’t know if he wants me to tell you about that by the way he said it was sensitive. But anyway, all of that leads up to the fact that I asked her how she died,” he said.

“As much as I think you’re an absolute idiot for sticking around and chatting with the spirit, I suppose that would be a good thing to know,” Rose said. Dave nodded because yeah, he could accept that it was a pretty dumb move, but hey he was still alive so must not have been that dumb.

“Right, so I guess ignoring the chance that she was lying, she said that she was killed fucking mercilessly by her sister. Stabbed in the eyes and everything,” he said. Rose nodded and seemed to think it over for a moment.

“That does sound like it matches up to the rather gruesome deaths most of the spirits seem to have so far,” she said at last. Dave nodded in agreement, because yeah, only most of the spirits.

“Still leaves newguy as an outlier though,” he said.

“That it does. Did she say anything else?” Rose asked, and Dave pulled out his phone to look at the notes he’d taken in case he missed anything.

“Nothing too notable, she said her sister thought she was the reason she was gonna die and so she killed her. But that wasn’t true? She didn’t give a lot of details,” Dave told her. He tried to think if there was anything else worth mentioning. “She told Sollux to get some sleep, which was weird. She seemed like, genuinely concerned about the dude. Honestly though, even back to walking and talking and stuff he looks an absolute mess, enough to even get psychotic killers wanting to tuck him into bed.” Rose’s sort of grim expression twisted into a slight smile at that.

“At least it is some progress though,” she said, and yeah Dave could agree with that. He’d been surprised as fuck to hear from Sollux and he didn’t quite understand just what the fuck he was planning to do with his new contraption but at least he wasn’t moping anymore.

“Other then Sollux’s slowly improving state and his ability to get even enemies to worry about his health through sheer sympathy, this is all very good to know. Like you said, there’s always the chance that she’s lying to us, but compared to what we had to go on before at least it’s something,” Rose said.

“Yeah, but that’s pretty much all I got. We came right back after Redglare left,” Dave told her, figuring that just about finished up the entirety of what happened. “What now?” he asked. Rose hummed thoughtfully to herself, and Dave could see the gears turning in her head. That was either a very good thing or a very bad thing, it was hard to tell with her.

“Well, you’ve said it yourself. There is still the outlier of that knew spirit, as well as our currently block for getting new information due to a lack of spirit names,” she said. Dave wasn’t too sure how much he liked the way she was talking right now.

“And do you got an idea on how to solve that problem?” he asked.

“Well, asides from walking straight up to a spirit and asking, I don’t see any other way possible at the current moment,” she said, and yeah Dave couldn’t think of anything else either, and that was a horrible as fuck plan.

“Eh, I guess it doesn’t matter all that much if we don’t know exactly how they become spirits. Like, just taking them out before they get too strong was going pretty well up till now. I mean it’d be nice to know but until we find out more shit I guess we can put it on the backburner?” Dave said and Rose nodded.

“I suppose we have no other choice. Listen, I’ll keep this incident from the others for you. I think they might actually fire you if you keep on this path, and I’d like a chance to talk to Sollux and find out exactly what he was trying to accomplish before doing anything rash,” she said. Dave fell back onto his pillow with relief at that. He hadn’t expected her to keep this under wraps at all, so it was definitely a very much welcomed surprise.

“Holy shit thank, I owe you for this big time,” he said

“You’re welcome, now try to get some sleep. Sollux isn’t the only one rivaling the ghosts for the death look,” Rose said as she turned to leave the room.

“Yeah whatever, I look beautiful,” Dave grumbled, but he shifted to smother his face in his pillow some, only lifting his head up to take his shades off when he felt them digging into his face. Rose flicked his lights off as she left and Dave grunted out a thanks. It wasn’t super late, but trying to sleep would probably be a pretty worthwhile thing to attempt right now.

His attempt turned into an overwhelming success until he was knocked awake a few hours later by someone barging into his room and turning the lights on.

“Dave, wake up,” Rose’s voice said, and Dave groaned in annoyance. There was no way he’d been asleep long before for this to be any kind of justified.

“Dave, wake the fuck up,” she repeated, and this time Dave huffed but sat up, squinting in the light to see her before grabbing his shades and putting them back on. She looked pretty fucking unnerved and that helped some of the sleepiness disappear.

“What’s up?” he asked, stifling a yawn.

“I found more spirit names. Also confirmed a few,” she said, and yeah okay Dave was wide away now.

“What, how? Oh my god Rose what did you do?” he asked, dread starting to pool in the pit of his stomach. She didn’t look like she was injured any but that didn’t mean shit. If everyone could get mad and worried about him when he did dumb stuff he could do the same to them. It was only fair.

“Do I need to remind you that you have no room to talk?” she said. Dave groaned because she was right but that wasn’t the point right now. He knew he’d been a dumbass but at least none of those times he’d been intentionally seeking out spirits. Even with Sollux he didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. There was no doubt in his mind that whatever she did she had done on purpose and will full knowledge of just how shit of a plan it was.

“What did you do?” he repeated because that was the important thing here. She wouldn’t have come talk to him if she didn’t want to say anyway.

“I only did what we agreed our last option was, going and asking a ghost directly. That new spirit is rather easy to get talking when Trickster isn’t around,” Rose said. Dave frowned at that, because yeah that new guy wouldn’t have been a match for Rose at all but that wasn’t the problem.

“And how the fuck did you know Trickster wouldn't be around?” he asked.

“I’d been keeping track since our talk and waited until he left. I was very lucky that I didn’t have to wait long at all,” she explained. Alright, that made sense but there was a glaring problem with it, and didn’t explain how unnerved she’d look when she woke him up.

“And what if he came back before you finished? Did he come back before you finished? Did you kill the new guy come on Rose give me some answers here,” Dave asked, now fully awake and wanting to know what the hell was going on. He glanced at the clock on the wall and it was 4 in the morning and damn this could have gone bad if something had happen. Everyone was asleep they wouldn’t have realized Rose was in trouble until morning.

“He did not come back before I finished. I wasn’t able to kill the new spirit either though, someone else came before I could, but as you can see I am fine,” Rose said. Dave groaned because he wanted to argue with that but that was the same fucking argument he’d given multiple times.

“Who the fuck showed up?” he asked, almost he had a feeling that if he had to guess, he’d be able to pretty easily. Especially since Rose wasn’t hurt any.

“It seems that Redglare is either keeping tabs on us or on that new spirit. Or both, I suppose that’s also possible,” Rose said. Dave flopped back down on his bed because yeah okay, he fucking knew it. He didn’t know why he even pretended it could have been anyone else because if it wasn’t trickster than of fucking course it had to be Redglare. Couldn’t have been Ringmaster or else Rose probably wouldn’t be talking to him right now.

“Man, fuck that Rose. Like it’s cool you’re safe and got new info but we gotta stop walking straight into fucking danger town with these spirits. We’re on a one way trip and there’s no coming back apparently, only there is since we’re still here. Danger Town is Redglare by the way,” Dave said, feeling a rant starting on because he was stressed as fuck and he wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take. Before Rose could speak up he continued.

“Seriously, I’m pretty sure we’re the worst fucking hunters ever with our encounter verses kill rate. It’s kind of incredible that we aren’t dead yet. We should be fucking thanking Redglare for letting us go so many times because god damn we’re like the kids who can’t resist sticking the fork into the light socket. What did you think would happen junior you got shocked welcome to the real world. Your parents can't afford health insurance either so I hope you don't mind that permanent twitch on your left side.”

“If you’re finished,” Rose cut in, and he wasn’t but he supposed he’d let it slide for now.

“Yeah, yeah so I guess what are the names and shit?” he asked.

“Well, Vriska, Terezi and John were all reconfirmed, but more importantly he had two full names, Jane Crocker and Jake English. Also, the Ringmaster’s name is not Tim or whatever you had said, but Gamzee,” Rose told him. Dave couldn’t remember what he’d said the Ringmaster’s name might have been, but he guessed Gamzee fit a bit better than it. As well as a name that wasn’t as sinister as like, ‘Balthazar, the destroyer’ or something.

“Any idea who the other two could be referring to?” Dave asked, because those were the ones they could actually do something with. Although ‘Jake English’ might end up being too generic over too long of an expanse of time to do anything with. ‘Jane’ was just as bad, but at least the last name was a tiny bit more unique. Not by much though.

“Well, going on the assumption that this Jake is a male, the only spirit left would be Casanova,” Rose said and oh yeah, that made sense. At least now they could narrow down the time period to when he’d first started being seen.

“That still leaves Jane to either be Bloodhound, Vampire or Sugar though, there’s no way to be sure until we start looking into it more,” she added.

“Hey, it’s a lot better than what we had before though,” Dave tried to assure her. “Still a dumb as fuck idea though, don’t ever go asking spirits for shit again.”

“I don’t plan to go near any other spirits for anything other than missions anywhere in the conceivable future, don’t worry,” Rose told him. Dave wasn’t sure how much he believed her, but he figured he could take her word on it for now. There was only two other spirits who’s name they didn’t know after this and it was unlikely they’d be able to find out how all of them died anyway.

“Oh, and Dave?” Rose said, surprising him slightly.

“Yeah?”

“I would really appreciate it if this could stay between the two of us,” she said. Dave pushed himself up and glared at her because what the fuck.

“Dude, what the hell? So I have to get chewed out over every little thing I do wrong but you want to just sweep this under the rug? How are you going to explain how you found all this shit out?” he asked.

“Well, considering the fact that I have not told anyone but you that I’m looking into this, that shouldn’t be too hard,” Rose started. Dave continued to glare at her, because that didn’t make it any better.

“Let’s not forget that you are already keeping your most recent encounters with both Trickster and Redglare secret. And I don’t call nearly having Redglare rip your arms off a little thing,” she finished. Dave huffed but reluctantly gave in.

“Fine, god damn it I won’t tell anyone. But seriously we gotta be more careful,” he said, because it was one thing when he was walking her own dumb ass into dangerous situations, it was another when one of his siblings was.

“Thank you,” she said, and for once she actually sounded sincere. “Now I’m going to sleep, I’ll start looking into these names and see if I can find anything the first chance I get, alright? I was wondering if maybe you could get a head start for me though?” she asked and Dave nodded.

“Yeah fine, it’s not like they have anything for me to do anymore, might as well try to help with your little covert mission,” he said before lying back down. He was still fucking exhausted seeing as it was four in the goddamn morning.

“Thanks again,” Rose said and once again flicked the lights off as she left the room. It didn’t take long for Dave to fall asleep once again, making sure to jot a note down in his phone of the names Rose had given him beforehand.

When Dave woke up the next morning he laid in bed for a while because fuck moving around and shit. It wasn’t long until he remembered what had happened last night and he wondered if anyone else was still home. Reluctantly he pushed himself out of bed and started downstairs. He didn’t see anyone on the way and the kitchen was empty but that didn’t mean shit.

Putting a bagel into the toaster he sent Rose a text.

TG: yo im up
TG: you know if anyones home
TT: Good morning to you too.
TT: I believe you’re on your own today.
TG: alright cool
TG: ill look into the name shit for you
TG: soon as i wake up
TT: A spell of sleep texting I imagine?
TG: hell yeah you imagine correctly
TG: also bagel done so thats my cue to wake the fuck up
TG: later
TT: Goodbye.

Using more cream cheese than is probably necessary, Dave dubbed his bagel complete and grabbed some juice before starting back up to his room. Sitting down at his desk, he started to get down to some real sleuthing action and let the internet do its thing.

‘Jake English’ and the years before and fuck, he even tried a bit after his first sighting got him approximately jack shit. This was not encouraging in the slightest, seeing as that was the one they could put a set number of dates on. It was still a real fucking long time ago though, were there even still people alive from the early 1900s? That weren’t like, completely out of their minds in nursery homes? There were probably like, 3 or 4 total. And like at least half lived in Japan.

Dave figured it was still worth it to try out Jane Crocker, although he wasn’t sure which set of dates to put by it. He figured just going with ‘Jane Crocker death’ was about as good as he could get.

And apparently it was good enough, since he actually managed to find something. The article looked old as fuck, a really bad scan of like a newspaper maybe? It was hard as fuck to read, even messing around with the contrast and shit in photoshop. He wasn’t even sure what the point of the scan was. Maybe one of those 100 year olds had scanned it.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad. He could make out like, maybe half of it with his shades off. The gist of it, he was pretty sure at least, was that this Jane girl was killed, or well assassinated it said, culprit was still at large, and something about a company now being in the hands of her brother. Who was either 9 or 39 depending on if that smug before was a 3 or a fuck up from the scan. 89? Probably not 89.

There was also a picture, and Dave had only had one very fucking quick run in with Sugar in that past, but he was pretty sure that’s who he was looking at here. At the very least, it definitely wasn’t Bloodhound or Vampire. Also, it kinda made sense that the new guy would have Sugar and Casanova’s names as a pair. Those two were known to work together a whole fucking lot. If he met one the other probably wasn’t all that far behind.

What he could read of the article was frustratingly lacking of details on how she died. He was pretty sure even if he could get the thing in some crystal clear high definition it wouldn’t be sporting all the gruesome details though.

He guessed that an assassination wasn’t a pretty way to go through. He also figured that was why there was actually something to find of it since it was from so fucking long ago. She was important enough to bump the charge up from murder to god damn assassination.

Looking over the article again, Dave wondered if he could find out more by searching her company. Oh, it was Betty Crocker. Fucking duh, guess he wasn’t thinking with the last name and all.

Searching Betty Crocker owners, it wasn’t hard to find a nice, pristine list of the names of the owners over, fuck how long was Betty Crocker a thing? For fucking ever apparently. Yep, Jane Crocker was on it, and he guessed the person after that was her brother mentioned. He was the owner for like near a goddamn century, and after that…

Huh…

TG: hey did you know that feferi owns betty crocker
TT: Please tell me this relates to something somehow.
TG: yes it does but first answer the question
TG: did you know that feferi is apparently the head of a baked goods empire
TT: Yes, I was aware of this fact.
TT: Why did you think she was so rich?
TG: i dunno
TG: never questioned it
TG: just you know
TG: feferi the rich friend
TG: eridan is the rich friend douchebag edition if you were wondering
TT: I was not, but you are correct on that.
TT: Now if you could tell me how this relates to anything at all?
TG: oh yeah that
TG: jane is sugar and was a previous owner of the company like 100 years ago
TG: no luck with casanova
TT: Any idea how sugar might have died?
TG: the article is real shitty quality but it says she was assassinated
TG: thats it though
TT: That’s fine, it still gives us a pretty good idea.
TG: yeah thats what i was thinking
TG: maybe you can try to find something on casanova when you get time because i cant find shit
TT: I’ll look into it.
TT: I’ll also see if I can maybe try to restore the article you found some and see if there’s anything else important in it.
TG: good idea
TT: I need to go now, but thank you for the update.
TG: no problem
TG: later

Pocketing his phone, Dave saved the article and printed out a copy for Rose before figuring that was good for now. Pretty shitty that he couldn’t find anything on casanova, but he guessed they were insanely lucky to be able to have found as much as they did already. He wasn’t even going to try for the Ringmaster. Well, he figured it was better safe than sorry but typing in ‘Gamzee death’ got him exactly as much as he thought it would. Fucking nothing.

For now he figured he should just wait until Rose got back and they could talk more once she conducted her own investigation.

Dave wasn’t sure what she was expecting to be able to do with all this information. Figure out how spirits happened so they could prevent it? Unless they could prevent violent or whatever the fuck deaths all over the world he kinda doubted it.

It didn’t seem to have much use besides that though, but it was giving him something else to focus on. He couldn’t ask for much more than that right now.

Even if it all amounted to useless bullshit, it was better than having to feel like useless bullshit himself.

Chapter Text

Karkat did manage to get to sleep after quite a bit of time just lying there. It wasn’t a paricularly restful sleep, but by the time he woke up the sun was starting to set once again and that meant John would want to go looking for a new place to stay soon. It wasn’t like the construction site was all that glamorous before those two had completely trashed it, Karkat didn’t care what the place they were staying at looked like. If John wanted to move though then he’d go along with it.

“Good morning Karkat!” John said, a smile on his face like that huge fucking tantrum he’d thrown a few hours ago was wiped from his memory.

“The sun is setting,” Karkat stated, no humor in his voice at all. That didn’t stop John from laughing at it, and honestly it felt like he was overdoing it a bit. Maybe he thought if he acted happy enough Karkat would completely forget everything that had happened the previous night. It wasn’t going to work, but he could at least be polite enough to not bring it up if John didn’t first.

“Well you just woke up so it totally counts as morning for you,” he said once he finished laughing. Karkat just shrugged, not in the mood to argue something that didn’t matter in the slightest. Instead of saying anything he just crawled out of the dented tube, brushing himself off once he was on his feet. It wasn’t like his clothes ever seemed to get dirty though. Just one of those perks of being dead he supposed.

“Yikes, yeah, we should probably find another place to hang out,” John said as he looked around the construction site. There was still some light from the not quite set sun shining over the place and yeah, it looked even worse when you could see everything. The place looked like a tornado had run through it or something. A tornado that could punch mental hard enough to dent it.

“Lead the way, I still barely know anywhere in this town,” Karkat said. John nodded and started out of the construction site, a thoughtful look on his face.

“Hmm, let’s see where to stay, where to stay. We could always go back to the school, but I don’t think you’d be all that comfortable there since that’s where we got attacked before. I’d say the park but sometimes homeless people stay there at night and you don’t wanna be seen. Maybe Jane and Jake know about some houses that no one’s living in right now? Or we could go find Jade and stay with her for a while, that could be fun,” John rambled on.

“Whatever you think is best, I don’t care where we stay,” Karkat told him. It was true, they could live in the dump for all he cared, but he was pretty sure Gamzee had already called that place.

“Let’s go find Jade then. You’re cool with Jade right?” John asked, and Karkat shrugged. She’d seemed fine from what he remembered. Now having other spirits to compare her to besides just John she was definitely one of the more tolerable ones.

“Yeah, she’s alright,” he said, John smiling widely. Karkat followed John as they started to wherever it was that Jade stayed. When John stopped without any sort of warning Karkat had thought that they must have reached the place. When he looked around though the only things he could see were a few closed shops, and that didn't seem like a likely candidate for a spirit to live in.

“What, are you lost or something?” he asked. John shook his head, not saying a word, and it was only then that Karkat noticed he was looking at something ahead of them. He could feel dread starting to well up inside of him when he made out exactly who it was.

“Ugh, you’re still hanging around with this loser John? You need some better company, namely me,” Vriska asked as she came up to them.

“Karkat’s not a loser Vriska. I like hanging out with him,” John argued.

“No, she’s probably right on that one,” Karkat spoke up. He could admit that he was a pathetic mess most of the time, loser could sum him up pretty well, and the more important thing here was that he didn’t give a shit if Vriska thought he was a loser. She could try and insult him all she wanted, he didn’t care. Besides, anything she could say to him he’d already said worse to himself.

“What? No Karkat stop that, you’re not a loser!” John argued.

“You heard him John, I’m right, as always. Anyway I’m not here just to hang out, I need your help and I’d like to talk to you without a certain loser hanging around,” Vriska said. John frowned and turned back towards her.

“Stop calling him that. And um, can’t we just talk here for now? Like, do we really gotta go anywhere?” John asked. Vriska sighed dramatically, leaning back against a streetlight.

“You’ve been so difficult lately! Seriously, what’s wrong with you?” she asked.

“Nothing’s wrong with me! Things have just been super stressful lately and I just, you know, think it’d be safer if we keep our heads down for now and let some stuff blow over,” John told her. Karkat could most certainly agree with that, but it didn’t look like Vriska was having it any.

“No, you know what’s wrong with you? You’ve gotten soft! Ever since you’ve started hanging out with all these weak willed nerds they’ve been filling your head with doubt. Is that what you want, to go around life doubting what you can do?” she asked, walking up to get into John’s space.

“I’m just trying to be realistic. The hunters are dangerous, I’m not as strong as you, they could still take me out if they really tried,” he attempted to argue with her.

“See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You think they haven’t been trying? You think I would let them kill you? If you can’t believe you’re strong enough you can at least believe that I am, right?”

“Well, yeah I guess so but-”

“But what?!” Vriska cut in. “What’s the problem? You’re more than strong enough to hold your own against most of them, and I’ll protect you until you get good enough to fight against the ones who could conceivably hurt you. What else could you possibly want?” she snapped at him.

“Maybe I don’t want anything! Maybe I just think attacking the hunters is a dumb idea!” John yelled right back at her. Honestly Karkat was a little impressed. He didn’t know if John would be able to hold his ground against her. Vriska’s angry expression softened some and she took a step back from the other spirit.

“Listen, John, I know what I’m doing, okay? Have I ever put you into a situation I couldn’t get you out of?” she asked, and John hesitated a moment before answering.

“Well, no. I guess not,” he said, reluctance clear in his voice. Vriska smiled at him, and Karkat didn’t fucking like this. He didn’t like her, but even if he did he wouldn’t be happy with where this was going.

“See? Look, I know things haven’t been great lately. I can’t blame you for not liking Tavros, the kid’s a real piece of work-”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with him!”

“But! Remember who’s been looking out for you from day one. Me. And I really, really need your help right now. Please?” she pleaded. Karkat felt his frown deepen as John chewed on his bottom lip, it clear that he was struggling with giving her an answer.

“Gee, I don’t know Vriska. I mean, it just doesn’t seem, ugh,” John mumbled. After a few moments he sighed heavily. “You promise you’ve thought this through? That this is worth it?”

“Of course! What do you take me for? I have it all planned out,” Vriska said, her demeanor back to the over confident arrogance it was before.

“I guess, if you really need my help then… fine, I’ll help you,” John said. Before Vriska could get out a word Karkat rounded on John.

“What the hell fucking shit John?! You just promised Terezi last night that you weren’t going to let her talk you into this bull!” he snapped, not able to keep out of this now. He was going to let John handle all this up until he went and agreed to go aggravate the people whose goal in life was to kill all of them!

John’s face fell when he mentioned Terezi, but before he could say anything Vriska was groaning loudly.

“Are you serious? What the hell does she think she’s doing? Always meddling in my business, talking to my John behind my back. If she has a problem with what I’m doing she can come talk to me about it. John, don’t you dare listen to her, she doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about!” Vriska ranted.

“She was just worried is all. She’s scared you might upset them and they’ll try to take out some of the weaker spirits even more than they already are,” John said in a clear attempt to try and calm Vriska down some. It didn't appear to work in the slightest, but Karkat gave him points for trying.

“Don’t defend her! God, all of her talk about ‘protecting people’ makes me so mad! She doesn’t care about protecting anyone. She just wants to mess up everything I do!” she snapped, barely even talking to John at this point.

“This might be a shock, but not everything has to revolve around you,” Karkat grumbled at her. He didn’t regret it, even as Vriska got up in his face, glaring down at him.

“Listen very carefully newbie. You don’t know anything about what’s going on here. You wouldn’t even be around anymore if John wasn’t such a big softie and decided to protect you from every little thing. So guess what, you don’t get a say. Just stand there and be glad John decided to take pity on such a pathetic little sad sack like you,” she growled.

“Vriska stop! Come on, I said I was going to help you, please just leave him alone,” John pleaded, getting between the two.

“It’s fine, she can say whatever she wants, I don’t care,” Karkat said, his voice as emotionless as he could possibly make it given the circumstances. John frowned and turned back towards him.

“Karkat, no. It’s not nice,” John said, but he rolled his eyes at that.

“Why the fuck would she be nice to me? I don’t give a shit, okay? If you want to go back on your word and help her attack the hunters then do it. I don’t have a fucking say in the matter,” he snapped. John was staring at him, the most downtrodden fucking expression on his face imaginable. Karkat would feel bad if it wasn’t just pissing him off more.

He didn’t want any more people pitying him. He was so fucking tired of people pitying him. Frankly he was glad Vriska had told him off, nice god damn change of pace from everyone taking him bitching and moaning with a smile and a nod.

“You heard him John! Let’s get going already, I’ll fill you in on the way,” Vriska said. John didn’t turn away from him though, that sad little expression still plastered on his face.

“Um, okay. Karkat, do you remember the way back to the construction site? I can come back to get you there once this is all over with,” John said. Karkat thought it over for a moment. Going back to the site was the smart thing to do, this shouldn't even be a question for him. He was fucking pissed though, and he made dumb decisions when he was angry.

“No need, I’m coming with you,” Karkat said, and he knew he was being a fucking idiot right now, but he didn’t care. He was going to come along and probably get killed all over again but Vriska had made him so god damn frustrated that he didn’t even care if he ended up dying.

“What?” John and Vriska asked at the same time, varying degrees of surprise and anger between them. Karkat fixed Vriska with a glare as he answered.

“I’m coming with you. If you’re so fucking great at protecting people then this should be no problem, right?” he said. Yeah, he was definitely going to regret this later, but she’d pissed him off and if she was going to insist that she could keep John safe in the middle of the enemy base he was going to fucking make sure she could back that up. If shit started to go to hell, there was a chance John would try to get him out of there. It was a safer bet than hoping he'd abandon Vriska for his own safety.

Vriska gave him a fierce glare before smiling without warning. “Of course I can protect you. No problem at all if you want to tag along,” she said. John still looked quite uncertain about all of this, and fucking good for it. He shouldn’t be going along with what this maniac is telling him to do. If he was going to insist on it then Karkat didn't give a shit if he was uncomfortable about it.

“Karkat are you sure about this? It’s no big deal if you just go wait back at the site. Or even right here, that's fine too,” John said and Karkat shook his head. He’d already said he was doing this so he wasn’t about to back out now.

He really fucking should back out god he was losing his mind.

“I’m sure,” he said. Before John could try to argue with him any more Vriska spoke up.

“Alright then! Let’s get this show on the road. You can tag along if you want to, but make sure to stay out of our way, okay?” she said to Karkat before putting an arm around John’s shoulders and starting to lead him down the street. It was obvious as fuck how uncomfortable John was with all this, but he brought that on himself. Karkat followed behind the two at a bit of a distance, keeping just close enough to be able to hear them talking.

“So um, what’s uh, the plan exactly?” John asked as they walked.

“It’s simple really. We wait until late, when most of the hunters won’t be around, then I bust the front open and we rush in. You keep any of the weaker hunters occupied while I deal with the big threats. Once I get my cue ball back we scram,” she said, and Karkat almost wasn’t able to keep himself from groaning.

“Uh, that doesn’t sound as well thought out as you were saying it was,” John said. Karkat wasn’t sure why he was surprised, he didn’t expect anything else.

“What do you mean? It’s simple, clean cut in and out. There’s no reason to over complicate things here, that kind of stuff just makes it more likely for everything to go wrong,” Vriska insisted. Karkat rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything. He was just a spectator at this point, and he was fine with that.

“I guess that makes sense,” John muttered. It wasn’t much longer before Vriska had them stop, peaking around the corner of a building.

“See that empty spot right there between those two stores? That’s where their base is,” Vriska explained. Karkat peaked around them and he couldn’t see shit where she was pointing, but John seemed to believe her.

“Will we be able to see once we’re inside the shield?” he asked. Vriska simply shrugged, not looking very concerned with his question.

“We’ll find out once we get inside,” she said. Karkat wasn’t able to keep himself from slumping against the side of the building at that.

“Wow,” he deadpanned.

“Vriska! I thought you said you thought this through!” John said, sounding less and less like he wanted to do this. Maybe he’d back out and they could just leave. Fuck Karkat hoped so, he’d already gone too deep to back out now and he did not want to actually go through with this.

“I have! Stop freaking out already!” Vriska snapped at him.

“How are you supposed to find your cue ball if we can’t see? How are we supposed to fight if we can’t see? Vriska this is dumb!”

“If it turns out we can’t see we’re just turn around and leave! We won’t ever know unless we try!” she argued with him. Before John could say anything someone appeared where in front of the empty looking lot out of the blue and Vriska grabbed a hold of John and pulled him further back behind the building. When Karkat chanced a glance at who it was he saw the same hunter who’d come and interrogated him the other night.

“Alright, we’ll wait a few more hours for everything to settle down, then we head in,” Vriska said once the hunter was out of sight. John sighed heavily but nodded.

“This better work,” he muttered. Vriska just shushed him and Karkat let himself slide down the wall so that he was sitting on the ground since they were going to be waiting around for a while.

The next few hours were excruciatingly boring, and Karkat was starting to regret going along with this. Even if he didn’t die and everything went off without a hitch, it wouldn’t be worth having to put up with Vriska for over three hours. He stayed quiet for the most part, although Vriska and John spoke a bit. It was mostly them going over the ‘plan’ if you could even call it that.

Fucking finally (he didn’t know why he was relieved he didn’t want to do this what the fuck was he thinking going along with this?) Vriska pushed herself off of the wall with a large grin.

“Okay, enough waiting around. It’s now or never people,” she said, clapping her hands together. John pushed himself off the ground where he’d been sitting.

“Really Karkat, you can just stay out here if you want, you don’t actually have to come inside,” he said, and Karkat figured he should take this last opportunity to back out. He caught sight of Vriska rolling her eyes at him though and yeah never mind, fuck her with something sharp and rusty.

“But it’s such a perfect plan, why on Earth would I miss out on being a part of it?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice.

“Alright then! Time to get this show on the road,” Vriska said before John could try and push him to stay out of it any more. Without another word she disappeared only to show up approximately where that last hunter had come out of. Soon John was right at her side, and Karkat cursed under his breath and ran across the street after them. Fucking teleporting.

Before he could quite make it to them Vriska crashed forward, dust and bricks and glass going everywhere. Karkat froze and held up an arm in an attempt at blocking the flying debris, but nothing actually struck him. Right, he was dead. Why was it so easy to forget that?

Vriska had immediately disappeared in the smoke and wreckage, and when John followed after her he did as well, despite the fact that some of it had started to clear. Well, he guessed that was the shield thing they kept talking about. Taking a deep breath (why was he doing this what was he thinking) Karkat ran into what he guessed was a hole in a wall that Vriska had made.

For a split second he couldn’t see anything, and he was certain that John’s perfectly reasonable fear had been right and they were all blind as fuck past the shield. As soon as the thought had come to him though his vision returned, and he was almost immediately frozen in place.

It was pure chaos, plain and simple. He didn’t know what it was with this whole wind thing, but it was like John was the center of a tornado. Furniture was flying around the room and crashing into walls. Papers and smaller items and bits of the wall from the hole behind him were added to the mix and making it hard to see.

Karkat could barely hear anything over the sound of the wind blaring in his ears and everything caught in said wind crashing around, but he could make out Vriska’s cackling laughter even still.

It wasn’t a surprise when several people burst out of the hallway, many of them armed and all of them looking either confused or pissed. Karkat recognized two of them from the attack before, and he wasn’t able to keep from flinching back. That was as much as he could bring himself to move though, his fear locking him in place.

He had no fucking clue who the other three hunters were. Two of them looked much older than the normal hunters he’d seen so far. Karkat guessed that these were those super dangerous ‘weird hunters’ he’d heard about before. Oh joy.

An older man who looked a lot like that other douche in shades, not the one he kept running into (fuck, he guessed Terezi wasn’t joking when she said there was at least three douches in shades with swords running around. How the hell does anyone ever tell them apart in casual conversation?) didn’t hesitate in the slightest before running straight towards Vriska, sword in hand. He somehow managed to dodge most of the larger objects flying around the room, and for a second Karkat thought he might have been teleporting as well he was moving so fast.

Before he could land a strike on her Vriska slammed into him and sent him flying through the nearest wall. He’d barely had time to land before another girl was charging Vriska with a fucking trident in her hands, of all things. Once again she wasn’t able to get a hit on her, but this time it was because she was sent flying back by part of a couch slamming into her side. Karkat guessed John was to blame for that.

Before anyone else could try to attack Vriska teleported herself behind the rest of them. She started to tear doors off of their hinges as she made her way down the hall, looking for her dumb cue ball he guessed. Karkat couldn’t see her whenever she would go into the actual rooms, and he was not about to go any further into this place than he already was, even if he could move. If he just stayed perfectly still then maybe they wouldn’t notice him.

The next time Vriska was in sight he saw one of the hunters he recognized rush towards her, looking like he was trying to punch her in the face. Instead of pushing him back like she had with the last one, she grabbed his arm and flung him across the room.

Karkat could hear the hunters speaking and yelling at Vriska and John and each other, but he couldn’t understand what they were actually saying. His brain kept telling him to get the fuck out of there but he just couldn’t move.

John was teleporting around rapidly, trying to stay out of reach from one of the hunters with the swords. The adult that had been thrown through the wall was back now, and then the other one pulled a fucking gun out and oh god they were all going to die. Why did he let John do this why had he come with them he was such an idiot!

Karkat couldn’t make out what knocked the sword and gun from the older hunters’ hands, he thought it might have been the wind from John for a few quick moments. Then the hunter that was chasing John was grabbed and thrown into the corner of the room, and it was then that he could make out exactly who it was doing all this.

John seemed to realize it as well, as the wind stopped and he fell to the ground (when the fuck had he started flying?!) a look of horror and guilt on his face.

With the wind gone everything else fell out of the air as well, crashing loudly to the ground and everyone froze in confusion. Everyone except for Vriska, who continued to rush straight for the older woman hunter. Before she managed to touch her she was slammed against the wall and held there, Terezi now clearly visible to everyone.

“Vriska,” she growled, and to her credit Vriska doesn’t look the least bit intimidated.

“Terezi,” she says back, an almost bored tone to her voice. The hunters were all frozen and staring at the two, and Karkat didn’t blame them for that. He was sort of terrified himself and he knew at least one of the extremely dangerous ladies didn’t want him double dead. He was sure none of them could be anywhere near that confident.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Terezi snapped, still sounding beyond angry. Karkat was sure he’d never heard her this fucking pissed before. It was terrifying.

“Getting shit done! Don’t you dare try and stop me, this isn’t any of your business” Vriska said, zapping away from Terezi. The second she did though the other girl was after her again, managing to slam her against another wall.

“Get out of here. Now,” Terezi demanded. Vriska growled and flung the other spirit off of her, starting to look pissed as well.

“I’m not leaving until I get what I came for and you can’t stop me!” she yelled, looking ready to go and tear the rest of this place apart despite anything the other girl said. Before she could though Terezi grabbed her arm tightly, forcing her to stay in place.

“You are leaving right now, or I will make you leave. I’m not joking. Get out of here and do not come back, understood?” she commanded, her voice low and menacing. Vriska glare daggers at her, looking a half a second away from tearing her arm away and attacking the other girl.

Karkat had no idea what was going on when instead, she simply put the arm Terezi didn’t have a death grip on up in a sort of surrendering gesture.

“Alright, alright already, no need to get all upset. I’m leaving, your precious little hunters are safe,” she said, still sounding rather annoyed with all of this. The second she stopped speaking she disappeared, and Karkat had no idea if she’s actually left or not. Terezi sighed deeply before turning to where he and John were.

“And just what are you two idiots still doing here?” she asked, and John jumped up from where he was sitting on the floor.

“Right, um, bye!” he squeaked out, flashing over to Karkat and grabbing his shoulder. He didn't have any time to register what was happening before he was stuck with that suffocation again. When he opened his eyes they were outside, a few blocks away from the hunter’s base.

“Uuuugh!” John groaned loudly, slumping to the ground in the most dramatic fashion possible. Karkat blinked away the uncomfortable feeling of suffocating and the shock of whatever the fuck all that was.

“What the fuck just happened?” he asked after a moment. John simply groaned once again, somehow even louder this time. Karkat wasn’t sure if they were all that safe hanging out here for now, but frankly he couldn’t be bothered to care. After all that he was so past caring. He let himself sit down next to where John was hiding his head in his knees and moaning quietly under his breath.

Yeah all that… all that was a massive clusterfuck and after a moment Karkat reached out and patted John on the shoulder sympathetically.

God, all of that was a huge fucking mistake.

---

By the time Rose finally came home Dave had managed to catch up on three different shows, as well as download a bootlegged PC version of Pokémon blue. He was already past the first gym when she knocked on the door before letting herself in.

“Yeah no it’s cool just come right in without me saying anything. It’s not like I could have been naked or some shit no big deal,” he complained. Rose rolled her eyes and went over to sit down on his bed. Dave had to turn around in his chair to face her, and he was going to complain about that too but she started speaking before he could.

“Dave, at this point it is more likely for me to find you in here being cornered by yet another spirit by barging in unannounced than it is for me finding you naked,” she said.

“Hasn’t happened that much,” Dave argued. If he was honest though it had definitely started to become a pretty unwelcomed habit he hoped wouldn’t continue. He was fucking tired of worrying that a spirit was going to decide they were bored and just kill him already instead of continuing to fuck around with his existence.

“Anyway, what’s going on with you? You terrorize the trainer into giving you more answers or some shit?” he asked, figuring that Rose probably wasn’t here just to hang out. He did hope that she hadn’t done anything like that again though. Sure the new guy and the trainer weren’t threats by themselves, but there was always the chance that much stronger spirits were close by.

“I’ll have you know that I have not terrorized anyone yet today,” Rose said.

“Bullshit, but go on,” he said. Sure, she hadn’t terrorized any spirits but she’d probably gone and scared at least a few hapless souls without realizing it.

Rose rolled her eyes at his interjection but she did continue speaking so he figured it didn’t bother her that much. “Well, first of all I was wondering if I could have a copy of the article you found on Sugar,” she said.

“Oh, right sure thing,” Dave said, turning back around to grab the paper he’d printed out early. He wasn’t quite able to reach where she was sitting on the bed so he just kind of tossed it and hoped it would glide close to her. It managed well enough, and Rose looked the page over, scanning the more legible parts of it.

“I’ll email you a copy too, might be easier to read on a computer,” Dave told her. He didn't think the parts he missed amounted to much that you couldn't get from the context, but it was still a good idea to check. Rose nodded before putting the paper back down.

“Thanks, all of this has been a big help,” she said.

“Ain’t like I had anything else to do,” Dave said with a shrug. “So, what’s the end goal here anyway? I mean, they’re already spirits and shit, what’ll knowing who they were when they were alive accomplish exactly?” he asked, because that had been bothering him for a while now. It wasn’t like they could change what had happened, and he doubted they could figure out a way to keep people from becoming spirits in the future. If it was just a thing that happened to some people when they died. All they could do was try and deal with them after the fact.

Knowing who they were and focusing on all the human aspect of them, as far as Dave was concerned just made taking them out harder. Or at least, if not harder than just more uncomfortable.

“The ‘end goal’ hasn’t changed from what it’s always been, which is getting rid of these spirits,” she started. “I’m hoping that if I can find out what’s unique about these people that made them survive past death, we can figure out more about their makeup. I imagine they’re souls, but what’s special about their souls is the important part. If I can just figure out what that is we can focus our magic on how to destroy it,” Rose explained, which yeah okay that actually made a lot of sense. He hadn’t thought about it in that kind of way.

“Maybe we should talk to everyone else about this then? I mean, the more people the faster it should go right?” Dave suggested. He knew they’d most likely get in trouble for fucking around with shit at first, but if they could figure out their weaknesses then maybe they could start going after the big threats. Stronger weapons could let them go try and take out people like Spider and the Ringmaster, and maybe they wouldn’t have to just let things go after shit goes down like with what happened to Aradia.

“We will, but I’d like to at least have a bit more evidence for my theories and look into some of the magic involved before saying anything,” she said. Dave supposed he could understand why she’d want to look into shit before telling Mom and Bro that they’d been looking into some super dangerous junk and talking to spirits. At least it seemed like it was worth something if they already had some results to show them.

“Yeah okay, I can’t argue with that,” Dave agreed. Rose pushed herself off of the bed, grabbing the paper again as she did.

“If you could send me a digital copy as well that’d be great,” she said and Dave nodded, turning back around to his computer to do that before he put it off and forgot about it. That had happened way too many times for him to want to risk it right now. This was actually kind of important after all.

“Yeah sure thing. Make sure to keep me posted,” he said, quickly emailing her the file.

“Will do, and if you find out anything else let me know,” she told him before leaving the room. Dave waved halfheartedly before closing out of his email and getting back to his Pokémon game. It was starting to get late but he wasn’t all that tired yet. He hadn’t done much but laze around all day though, so that made sense.

It wasn’t until maybe two in the morning that he figured he should at least try to get some sleep. He’d just lain down and closed his eyes when his bedroom door was slammed open. Dave jumped up on reflex, slipping his shades back on and blinding to try and focus on the scene in front of him. He found himself surprised and confused when he saw Rose standing in the doorway.

“What the fuck? Is everything okay?” he asked, quickly realizing as he spoke that something was not fucking okay, but he had no idea what. Rose was shaking the slightest bit, her eyes wide with worry and it wasn’t easy to accomplish either of those things with this girl. She was always put together. Dirk, Bro and her were the true unshakable badasses in the family, whatever could get any one of them like this was not to be taken lightly.

“Put some shoes on and grab your sword. We need to get down to the base now,” she said, her voice still steady despite everything else about her. Dave instantly did as he was told, not bothering to change out of his pajamas.

“What’s going on? Did something happen?” he asked as he slipped some shoes on and grabbed the closest sword he could find. Of course something had happened though, that was a dumb as fuck question. He felt his stomach drop as a thought came to him. “Was it Aradia?” he asked quietly. He didn’t know what could cause such panic with the current lack of progress on her but it was the only thing he could thing of.

“The base was attacked,” she explained as they started out of his room and down the stairs. Roxy was already by the front door when they got there, standing by the front door and arguing with someone on her phone. “I don’t know if anything happened to Aradia,” Rose added.

“No! We’re coming down right this second okay? Who was with you? Are you hurt?” Roxy said into the phone. She was quiet for a few moments while whoever it was spoke. “Dave and Rose are right here, we’re about to head out now,” she said.

“Who’s she talking to?” Dave asked Rose, figuring she would know, or just have a better clue than he did.

“Bro I believe,” she answered. Dave was a bit surprised by that, he’d kind of assumed she was talking to Dirk. They didn’t usually argue with Bro, but he supposed the base getting attacked was an adequate reason to.

“We’ll be there in ten minutes, tops,” Roxy said before hanging up. The way she said it didn't sound like Bro had said it was okay for them to come down. There wasn't any chance for them to stay away anyway, he didn't know why Bro even tried. Roxy quickly grabbed the car keys, Dave and Rose following her outside.

Dave got in the backseat of the car, Roxy and Rose up front. He was still trying to make sense of everything. They got attacked? Who the fuck would attack the base? What spirit would be that fucking confident to risk it (he could actually think of three that would be, but that didn’t help any) and why now? After everything that was going on couldn’t they catch a break for just one night?

“Where’s Dirk?” Dave asked when he realized his older brother wasn’t with them and Roxy hasn’t been talking to him on the phone after all. Of course, it still wasn’t that hard to figure out where he must be even before Rose answered him.

“He was already at the base,” she said as she started the car and sped out of the drive way. It wasn’t a far drive from their house but it still felt like it took way too long as they rushed over in tense silence. When they finally pulled up to the front of the building Dave could feel the dread just wash over him.

The whole front was in shambles, a huge gaping hole approximately where the door used to be and broken bits of wall and glass littering the sidewalk. The second the car stopped the three jumped out, ignoring the debris and rushing inside.

It was just as bad inside, if not worse. It looked like a bomb had gone off. A very destructive, angry bomb that was made of swords or some shit. The furniture that had been in the front room was all over the place, tossed around and broken in pieces, sword marks and holes littered the walls. Dave could even see some of the piping coming out and broken in places. There was one particularly bad spot where you could see right into Sollux’s office now, which had either been caused by a large chair or a person getting thrown through the wall. Dave really fucking hoped it was a chair.

Looking down the hallway there were several doors torn off their hinges, as well as papers and broken glass and miscellaneous items that had been in the individuals rooms strewn everywhere.

It was too much to process at once, and Dave found himself just standing in the hole that used to be the doorway trying to take it all in.

“Dirk!” Roxy shouted, knocking Dave out of his stupor as he turned to see Dirk sitting on a pile of rubble in the corner that looked like it might have once been part of the sofa. When she and Rose ran up to him Dave followed. He looked a little battered, but not as bad as Dave would have expected with the state of everything else. Even still Roxy was checking him over the second she got within reach.

“I’m fine, chill Rox, no one was seriously hurt, that includes me,” Dirk said, and a tidal wave of relief washed over Dave at that news. He had no fucking idea how no one managed to get too hurt, but it was good news no matter what. Confusing as shit, but good none the less.

“What happened? Who else was here? Where is everyone?” Rose started questioning as soon as Dirk was deemed healthy enough.

“Was just me, Feferi, Equius and Mom and Bro. Fef’s in one of the cleaner backrooms fixing up Equius, think he might have broken his arm or something. The bosses are checking to make sure nothing too valuable got taken, they should be back out soon,” Dirk explained. It made sense that so few people were around, since it was the middle of the goddamn night. Dave was surprised Equius was even still here, he didn’t usually stay this late.

“And what happened? Who the fuck attacked?” he asked, because seriously that was pretty god damn important to know if anyone bothered to ask his opinion on the matter.

“Spider, the trickster and that new spirit were with her too,” Dirk said.

“How are you all still alive?!” Roxy asked, because wow what the fuck? The place was a complete wreck, one of the most dangerous spirits had attacked, and no one was seriously hurt? The worst thing was Equius breaking an arm? That didn’t make any god damn sense!

Dirk sighed and ran a hand down his face and even he looked confused as shit.

“I don’t fucking know, pretty sure she was planning to do a lot more, but then Redglare showed up,” he said, and Dave felt himself freeze up at the mention of Redglare.

“Wait, Spider and Redglare were here and you’re saying everyone’s okay? That makes even less sense!” Roxy said, and Dirk threw his hands up in frustration.

“I know, okay! I thought we were fucking dead when Redglare showed up, but then they started fighting and Redglare got them all to leave,” Dirk explained, and it didn’t sound like he believed his own words. That disbelief was perfectly fucking reasonable too. Two of the most powerful spirits attacking while they’re guard was down, there was no reason for them not to be completely wiped out.

There was no reason for Redglare to be protecting them.

Before anyone could comment on what Dirk had said Bro and Mom came out from one of the rooms that still had its door attached. They both look about as disheveled as Dirk did, a few cuts and scrapes here or there. Bro was probably the worst for wear, a large bruise already forming up his arm and part of his face.

“Oh good, if you all could take Dirk home it would be a great help,” Mom said, like they were just here to pick Dirk up and they all hadn’t come this fucking close to losing their lives.

“I think we should stay here and help figure out just what’s going on instead,” Rose said plainly. Dave didn’t fucking blame her for that either. He wanted to know what the fuck was going on. Why had the Spider attacked them? Why did Redglare stop her? Why were Trickster and the new guy with Spider? Sure, Trickster used to be fucking inseparable from her before, but that stopped about two years ago. No one fucking knew why that had happened either. Everything was confusing.

Dave was already thinking about how to maybe get some of these answers though. It was dumb, and it would be better to find out what they knew first. Still, the idea was there, and if he needed to, he would.

“Go home, you can help in the morning,” Bro said, not leaving any room for argument in his voice. Not that that was going to stop any of them at this point.

“I’m fucking fine they don’t gotta take me anywhere. Spider was after something, we need to figure out what it was,” Dirk said, standing up off of the rumble pile. Dave could see him wince the slightest bit when he moved, and he guessed he was a bit more hurt than he was trying to let on.

“We will, in the morning,” Bro said, still not backing down any, not that Dave expected him to.

“Why wait? We should start now,” Rose insisted. Dave was pretty sure that whenever they did start looking into shit, he’d be left out of it again. Hopefully Rose would keep him updated though.

“Because we need to make sure it’s safe first. Listen to Bro and go home,” Mom said, which still wasn’t sitting well with any of them. If it wasn’t safe here it wasn’t safe at home and there had to be a reason Spider would attack like that and just leave. Was Redglare that much stronger than her that she could get her to leave? Dave had always kind of thought of them as evenly matched.

Dave felt his heart near about drop into his feet when a thought came to him. Fuck, what if Redglare had been in on it? What if Spider was a distraction? They hadn’t listened to her advice, what if she…

“Has anyone checked on Aradia?” he asked, a frantic and worried tone to his voice that he couldn’t control. Everyone was looking at him now and he was pretty sure they’d started to get into a full blown argument while he was spacing off and thinking.

“Why?” Mom asked, concern clear on her face. Dave tried to bring himself back into something a bit steadier.

“What if they came to finish her off? Redglare had told us to, Spider could have been a distraction. They wouldn’t just leave without getting what they wanted, right?” he tried to explain.

“She’s fine. We’ve already checked on her, none of the spirits got close to her,” Bro said. Dave nodded, more relieved than he wanted to show. Of course, that left him fresh out of ideas as to why any of this happened.

“Well, with that out of the way, as I was saying. We’re not going back home,” Rose said. A frown twitched onto Bro’s face and Mom sighed heavily. It was a rare thing indeed whenever they could get the better of them, but it did happen. Now seemed to be one of those rare times.

“Fine, you can stay. Dirk honey, go see Feferi and make sure your ribs are okay,” Mom said. Dirk looked ready to argue with that, but didn’t after thinking about it for a moment. Instead he just nodded before starting back to where Feferi and Equius must be.

“Rose, Roxy, if you could come with me. Dave, maybe see if you can um, clean up a little?” Mom asked, and yeah, they didn’t know what the fuck to do with him. He knew they didn’t let him in on a lot of the magic stuff, but this was kind of insulting. He wanted to know what the fuck was going on as much as everyone else did.

He didn’t argue with her though, instead just nodding and kicking some at the bits of rubble by his feet. “Sure, got a couple of heavy duty trash bags because I think most of this shit is a lost cause,” he asked.

“On it,” Bro said, leaving the room in the flash. As far as Dave knew he probably went out to go buy some, it wouldn’t exactly take him that long.

“Thank you Dave, let us know if you need anything else,” Mom said and Dave just nodded as those two went into one of the backrooms. Dave was pretty sure Rose would let him know everything she found out the next time they were alone, so he wasn’t that upset about being left out. Technically Dirk was also stuck off getting his ribs poked at and missing out on important meetings too.

Besides, even if they didn’t tell him jack fucking shit, that didn’t mean he was going to just sit by and do nothing. It was a dumb as all hell idea, but he needed answers, and he didn’t think that anyone here actually had them.

And what better place to get answers than the source of it all?

Chapter Text

Karkat didn’t have any idea what he was supposed to do now besides sit by John and wait out his little regret induced mental breakdown. He just hoped that they were far enough away from the hunter’s base that none of them would come after him. Hopefully they were too busy with all the damage they wouldn’t even think about attacking back right now. He couldn’t be completely certain of that though, so while John lamented his mistakes Karkat tried to keep an eye out for anyone coming close.

He was also trying to calm himself down, although that wasn't the easiest thing. His mind was either going so fast he couldn’t quite recognize individual thoughts or it had stopped completely. He couldn’t tell which but both options were rather frustrating.

After a few moments he managed to relax enough to notice that John was starting to ease up a bit too. He still looked more stressed than Karkat had ever seen him, but it was a little less than before. He wasn't making little noises of distress anymore, at least.

“So, what the fuck was that wind thing?” Karkat asked, just wanting something to say right now to get rid of this awkward silence, and it was the first thing to pop into his head. It seemed to get John’s attention well enough, and he looked up at him confused.

“Wind thing?” he asked, confusion in his voice and Karkat couldn’t help but roll his eyes.

“Yes, the wind thing. The near about tornado you caused in there! You did it while fighting Terezi too, what the fuck’s up with that?” he clarified. It was a dumb thing to be focusing on right now, but it was kind of better than having to deal with any potential aftermath of that clusterfuck. They could try to figure out what was going to happen with that after things calmed down a bit. A look of realization came over John’s face and he nodded.

“Oh, that wind thing. It’s just like, a thing. That I can do with wind. Pretty cool right?” John said, which really opened Karkat’s mind on the subject. He wasn’t sure how he never realized this before, it was all just so obvious.

“Yeah I guess so. Is that just like a thing spirits can do? Create fucking tornadoes?” he asked.

“No, that’s more of a me thing. Lots of powers are things that all of us can do, but there are some things that are just kinda specific to a person. I’m probably not the best person to ask about it,” John explained, and alright, Karkat could admit that at least he was trying to let him know what was going on with that. Still didn’t make much fucking sense, but it was something.

“If you say so,” Karkat said with a shrug. He was about to suggest that maybe they start moving a bit further away from the hunter’s base when suddenly he felt like they weren't alone anymore.

Karkat just about jumped out of his nonexistent skin when he looked up and saw Terezi in front of them with no warning what so ever. John fucking squeaked in surprise and scrambled to his feet, running off in a random direction.

“John you mother fucker don’t you just leave me here!” Karkat shouted after him. He didn’t know what was going on but he didn’t want to have to deal with the brunt of Terezi’s anger on his own. Or at all if he could help it.

Terezi sighed deeply, rubbing at her temples before teleporting over to where John was trying to get away. They were both back to where Karkat was still seated on the ground in the blink of an eye. She had a firm grip on one of John’s arms, and looked completely and totally frustrated with all this.

“Oh no you don’t, we’re talking about this and you’re not getting out of it,” she said to John before grabbing a hold of Karkat’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what was happening when all of a sudden there was a sharp pain in his head and he couldn’t think. It was slow, but after a few seconds his mind began to clear up some and he could see that they were all now in Terezi’s dumb tree house. He wasn’t too sure how this had happened, as that seemed like a really fucking long way to teleport. Also that teleportation had been awful in a whole new way from the last one.

“What in the world were you thinking?!”

That knocked him out of his thoughts, and he looked up to see Terezi yelling at and glaring down at a nervous looking John. Karkat didn’t blame him for being scared of her, but it still looked a little odd with how Terezi was quite a bit shorter than him. She was still rather successful in being intimidating though, and it definitely helped that John was sitting on the ground.

“It was just. I mean, I don’t know. I wasn’t-” John stumbled over his words.

“No, you most certainly weren’t thinking, were you?” she cut him off before sighing once again. Some of the anger in her seemed to fade away at that, leaving just concentrated frustration.

“Did you even try to say no to her?” Terezi asked. John quickly started nodding, still looking rather scared of the other spirit.

“Yes of course! It’s just, ugh, you know. It’s hard… saying no to her,” he said, muttering the last part a bit. Terezi didn’t seem moved by this in the slightest. Karkat couldn’t blame her either. John had just promised that he wouldn’t get involved in this shit and then he went and threw himself right into the thick of it.

“Did she threaten you?” Terezi asked, her voice cold.

“Um, well no, she didn’t do that,” John said, clearly reluctant to do so.

“Then you have no excuse. At the very least you didn’t have to drag Karkat into it too, he could have been killed while you two were messing around,” she said, gesturing over to where Karkat had been sitting since they teleported in.

“Well, actually,” he spoke up, surprising himself. Terezi didn’t look like she expected that either, turning towards him with a confused and curious look.

“Actually what now?” she asked, and Karkat wasn’t sure why he decided to draw attention to himself. It would have been so much easier to let her blame John for this whole fiasco, and he doubted John would say anything. That seemed like a fucking shitty thing to do though, so he guessed that was why.

“John told me not to come along. Vriska was pissing me off and didn’t want me around so I came to spite her,” he answered honestly. It was dumb as fuck but most of the things he’d managed to do in his short life (which admittedly wasn’t much) were motivated by spite, so at least it wasn’t anything new.

Terezi just stared at him for a moment, before breaking out in laughter. Karkat couldn’t even be mad at that, from what he could tell it was one of the few reactions that wouldn’t end up with him double dead for being an idiot. Terezi seemed in a much better mood when she finally managed to get a hold of herself again, a sharp smile back on her face.

“Okay, anything done with the sole reason being to spite Vriska is perfectly acceptable in my book, even if it is insanely stupid,” she said, and Karkat could definitely agree with that. There wasn’t a single thing about her that didn’t irritate him in some way.

“I uh, I did it to spite Vriska too?” John said, sounding about as unsure as possible and Karkat couldn’t help but give a quick little laugh as Terezi shook her head.

“No. No you did not John,” she said with absolute certainty. John sighed and slumped down a bit more than he already was.

“Yeah, yeah you’re right about that,” he muttered. Terezi quickly shifted back to being serious again, and while Karkat was glad she was fine with his bullshit that didn’t mean he wasn’t a little bit nervous about what she was going to do with John.

“We need to talk,” she demanded before glancing back over at Karkat. “We’ll be back soon okay? The hunters will be too busy fixing up their base and figuring out what happened to mess around with any of us, but stay inside just in case, understand?” she added and Karkat nodded. Yeah no fucking way he was going anywhere right now. He was kind of curious as to what they needed to talk about that he couldn’t hear, but honestly, that was probably a whole fucking lot of shit. He didn’t have anything to do with the vast majority of this bullshit. He just kept being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

With that Terezi grabbed John by the arm once again. The two of them disappeared without any sort of fanfare besides the cut off sound of John’s quick protest. With the two of them gone Karkat leaned back against the worn out wall of the tree house and sighed. There wasn’t much for him to do with them gone, or fucking anything really.

He considered trying to get some sleep. God he was fucking exhausted. His head still hurt from that teleporting bullshit too. He didn’t know why it was different from the last time, but he didn’t much care either way. Everything was horrible there was no point in analyzing the different flavors of awful.

Karkat shifted over so that he was lying down, back still against the old walls and tried to get some sleep. It was pretty damn hard to do when he kept thinking about what John and Terezi might be talking about or just how to shit everything had gone thanks to Vriska’s wonderful little plan.

He didn’t see anyone get too badly injured, hunter or otherwise. He couldn't see much of anything past his tunnel vision of fear though, so that didn’t account for much. It didn’t even include the things he actually couldn’t see because Vriska had gone into other rooms. He just had to hope to Terezi had showed up in time to prevent too much damage. He was pretty sure that she had, but he just couldn’t be certain and that was scary. He didn’t care what happened to the hunters, he was just scared of the retaliation.

John and Terezi were gone for nearly an hour at this point and Karkat was starting to get frustrated. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t relax and he was bored and just fucking fed up with all of this. He was very relieved when he started to hear someone walking around below the tree house, figuring they were finally back.

“Fuck, hey I know you’re around here somewhere. Terezi? Am I even saying that right? Probably not and you know what I don’t care just do your creepy ghost thing and appear in front of me or behind me it doesn’t even matter anymore. Nothing fucking matters anymore come on I’m sure this is the right spot maybe? I have no clue honestly I’m just going off of memory here,” a voice he didn’t quite recognize rambled on below him.

Karkat frowned, wondering if this was another spirit. They sounded just the slightest bit familiar, but he couldn’t pinpoint from where. Moving as quietly as he could he tried to get over to the little entrance way that peaked down at the ground.

He couldn’t see who was out there. Pretty much all he could see way the tree trunk and some roots and grass, which wasn’t helpful in the slightest. Shocking, but true. Trying not to grumble at himself, Karkat started to lean a little bit more into the hole and look around hopefully without being seen or falling like a braindead idiot.

Leaning a bit too far, Karkat felt his grip start to slide, and promptly fell like a braindead idiot and was seen.

“Fucking shit I’m just so god damn full of good choices today,” Karkat snapped at himself. Untangling the mess of limbs he’d fallen into, at least he wasn’t in any actual pain like he should be. Perks of being dead, there were a few. Looking up, Karkat froze when he saw just who it was who’d been trouncing around trying to find Terezi.

Fuck, why was it always him? Karkat scrambled to his feet but couldn’t do much except stay backed up against the tree behind him. To his credit the hunter looked just as shocked, quickly taking a step back when Karkat moved. He was also in pajamas from the look of it, which made him just the slightest bit less threatening. Which was still pretty damn threatening.

Karkat wasn’t counting, but he was pretty sure they just sort of stood there staring at each other for at least a couple of minutes. A good use of their time? Probably not.

“You’re not Redglare,” the hunter said after for fucking ever.

“Yeah, no shit,” Karkat answered automatically and well, he never went around telling people he was a fucking genius. At least the hunter didn’t seem offended or anything. That didn’t really matter though since he still had a sword and John and Terezi were off who knows where and yeah he could be dead again in a few seconds.

“You uh, seen her around or something?” the hunter asked, and wow Karkat thought he was awkward. Well he was, but that didn’t change the fact that this douche was as well. Certainly didn’t have any of that raw intimidation that the other hunter who’d come and interrogated him had. Karkat was scared of this hunter because he'd attacked him before. Karkat was scared of that girl from before because she herself was downright terrifying.

“Yeah…” he answered. There was another awkward moment of silence and Karkat wondered if maybe dying again wouldn’t be so bad after all if it meant this would just end already. He really didn’t want to fucking die again though so fuck that.

“Can I talk to her?” he asked, and yeah wow this was weird.

“She’ll be back soon. You can uh, wait until then. If you want,” he said, not sure what else to say. He couldn’t tell him to fuck off and leave. Well, he could, but he might die if he did that. God fucking damn it why did Terezi and John have to go off now? Why the fuck had he been a dumbass and fallen out of the tree? Why the fuck was this hunter here wanting to talk to Terezi in the first god damn place?

“Oh. Okay then, yeah I can wait, it’s cool,” the hunter said.

“Cool,” Karkat answered, nodding the slightest bit. He was still pressed up against the tree, and he couldn’t keep himself from glancing down at his sword every few seconds, certain that at some point he was just going to stick it through his fucking chest. The hunter seemed to notice this after a moment, starting to fiddle with the sword now like that helped at fucking all.

“So um,” the hunter started, and god why couldn’t he just be quiet and let them both wallow in the awkward silence until the others came back? Karkat would prefer that way over whatever fucking small talk he was going to try to make. “You’re name’s Karkat?” he asked and yep this was worse than anything he could ever imagine.

“Please fucking kill me,” Karkat moaned, and he only half meant it, but still.

“Wait is that wrong or…” the hunter trailed off and Karkat slumped a little more against the tree and sighed into his hands.

“No, no, my name is Karkat, yeah,” he answered, because what fucking else do you even do in this kind of situation. He wanted to climb back up into Terezi’s tree house but he wasn’t about to turn his back on this guy.

“Oh, okay then,” the hunter said. “I’m Dave,” he added, and Karkat was not sure what to do with this information, just glancing up again at him a bit.

“Good to know?” he said. It was quiet for a few more moments before Dave decided to speak up again.

“So was that like, an actual request or what? Because I’m pretty sure it would piss off Redglare and the Trickster if I killed you and with how confusing shit is right now I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea,” he said, sounding genuinely confused and Karkat groaned in frustration.

“No, don’t fucking kill me!” Karkat snapped, because yeah this was bad but it wasn’t that bad, no matter what he’d just said a few seconds ago. The hunter held his hands up defensively and took a step back.

“Okay, okay I’m not gonna kill you, relax. Was just making sure is all,” he said and Karkat huffed, rolling his eyes. This whole thing was very fucking surreal, and kept telling himself over and over again that he couldn’t trust this asshole. He tried to kill him twice, John and Terezi had told him to never let his guard down if he was stuck alone with a hunter again.

Still, he wanted to talk to Terezi for… some reason. They’d been gone for a while, so they were bound to be back soon. If he could just keep this douche occupied until then he should be good.

“Why are you even here, anyway?” Karkat asked after a moment. Dave seemed surprised that he’d asked a question first, and yeah he couldn’t blame him for that. He wasn’t exactly being very talkative, for good fucking reasons if you were to ask him.

“Want to talk to Redglare. I uh, I already said that,” he said and Karkat rolled his eyes at the answer.

“Why do you want to talk to her?” he clarified, which actually seemed to get through the hunter’s thick skull.

“Oh right. Well, was kinda curious about why she decided to keep Spider from fucking killing everyone,” Dave said and yeah Karkat could understand why that would cause some confusion. Still didn’t seem like a good idea to go right up to an extremely powerful dangerous enemy, but that wasn’t his problem.

“Because Vriska’s fucking insane,” he said, wondering if he just answered this guy’s questions maybe he would leave sooner. Karkat supposed his reason wasn’t the most in depth one in the world, but when it came right down to it that’s pretty much how he understood it.

“Vriska’s Spider right?” Dave asked, and Karkat just shrugged.

“Fuck if I know.”

“Well, either way you’re probably not wrong, but you were with them, weren’t you? That’s what Dirk said,” the hunter said.

“Who the fuck is Dirk?” Karkat asked, starting to feel like this conversation was going nowhere. Not that it had much of a starting point to begin with. Why was he talking to the hunter? Where the fuck were Terezi and John already?

“My bro. Er, one of my bros,” Dave said.

“One of the ones with the shades?” he guessed, and the hunter nodded. Karkat figured he should get back to the actual question. “Yeah, I was there. That doesn’t have anything to do with anything though,” he said.

“Do you know why they attacked though?” Dave asked. He wasn’t trying to intimidate the information out of Karkat like that other hunter had, or if he was he was really fucking bad at it.

“Like I said, Vriska’s fucking insane. You can blame it all on her,” he said. It was the truth, and he also wanted to get the blame off of him and John. Sure they had both gone along with it, but it was starting to be obvious that John had some issues he needed to work out with Vriska, and Karkat hadn’t actually done anything. He just stood in the broken down doorway like an idiot.

“That’s still not answering my question man. Yeah she’s insane, but even she should have like a reason right? Or else why did she wait this long to attack?” Dave kept prodding. Karkat shrugged, starting to ease up a bit from where he was pressing himself up against the tree.

“I really don’t know shit, okay? I’m kind of new here and trying to figure it all out myself,” he told him, which was mostly truthful. All he knew was that Vriska wanted to get something back and was convinced that the hunters had it.

Dave looked like he was about to say something, but before he could Terezi was behind him in a flash. She pulled him a few steps back from where he was, putting some more space between Karkat and the hunget. Karkat was extremely grateful for this, because even if he was easing up the slightest bit he was still terrified out of his skull that the hunter would get it in his head to kill him before they got back.

“Ahh fuck! I wasn’t gonna kill him I swear!” Dave yelled, stumbling back when Terezi pulled at him. John appeared a few seconds later, immediately looking enraged at the sight of the hunter.

“Karkat are you okay?!” John asked, running up to him. Karkat quickly nodded, much more at ease now that they were both here and the hunter couldn’t do shit to try to attack him if he wanted to.

“Yeah, I’m fine, he didn’t do shit,” he said, still surprised by that. He could have killed him, but he supposed the hunter was afraid of what Terezi and John would do to him if they found out. Honestly Karkat doubted they would do jack shit. They had their whole thing about not riling up hunters, and seeking vengeance for him wouldn’t be a smart move.

“What are you doing here cool kid? Shouldn’t you be helping your family clean up that wreck of a base?” Terezi asked, sounding very fed up with him being here. The hunter pulled himself out of her grasp and turned so that he was facing her a bit more. Karkat could see now that he looked pretty terrified, which made sense. His grip on his sword seemed tighter than it had been when it was just the two of them, but Karkat didn’t think it would do much if Terezi actually wanted to kill him.

“Why did you stop them from killing everyone or whatever it is they were planning to do?” Dave asked, which was pretty much what he just asked Karkat, but it made sense that he’d want to actually get an answer out of Terezi for that.. John huffed in anger before she could answer however.

“We weren’t planning to kill anyone!” he snapped.

“Ugh, not now John, can you maybe go take Karkat somewhere? I need to deal with this,” Terezi said, gesturing towards Dave. Karkat would like to know why this hunter thought it was safe enough for him to come to Terezi for answers in the first place, but he wouldn’t argue to stay. John looked slightly less willing to leave though, but after a moment he sighed and nodded.

“Yeah okay, we’ll get going,” he said, shooting a glare at the hunter. Karkat was about to turn to leave the area when he noticed Terezi freeze up.

“Actually you need to leave cool kid. Right now,” she said, causing all of them to frown because she seemed fine with talking to him just a minute ago.

“I’m not gonna argue with you but why?” Dave asked, sounding more confused than scared again. This entire situation was so fucked up Karkat couldn’t even blame him for that.

“I don’t have time to explain right now would you just-”

“Is this a bad time?”

Terezi let out a loud groan of frustration, and Karkat looked over to see that Sollux guy standing a little ways off looking utterly befuddled. Yeah okay, there was officially no use trying to make sense of anything anymore. It was a lost cause at this point.

At least he managed to survive throughout the night. That was more than he thought he could hope for, at the start of all this.

---

Bro came back after a few minutes with a couple of industrial strength trash bags. He didn't say anything as he threw them at Dave before disappearing into one of the still intact back rooms. Dave couldn’t say he didn’t expect sometime like this, and just started throwing whatever he could into the bags. Most of it wasn’t salvageable anyway, and nothing he saw looked completely irreplaceable. When he got closer to the shit that got thrown out of individual offices he would have to give it a better look. For now though he was fine with chucking pieces of dry wall into the bags and trying not to cut himself on any shards of glass and mostly succeeding.

After an hour or so Dave had managed to fill up a couple of bags, and the place still looked essentially the same, but there was progress no matter what anyone said. Hesitating a bit, he knew this wasn’t a good idea. He should tell someone that he was leaving at least in case they came out and were worried about him.

He went and knocked on the door that he was pretty sure everyone was behind. “Yo, I cleaned up some so I’m just gonna head home okay? It’s so late it’s early,” he called without waiting for anyone to actually come to answer the door. A few people called out for him to be careful and go get some rest.

Careful not to trip over anything, Dave made his way out of the base. He considered taking the car for a moment, but that would require him going back and bugging Roxy for the keys and he wanted draw as little attention to himself as possible. The walk to the forest behind Feferi’s house took a while. The sun was starting to rise at this point, just barely peaking over the horizon and tinting the sky pink. The forest was silent as he walked along, trying to remember the way he and Sollux had taken before.

When he did reach the spot, he didn’t find what he had expected. He was already starting to think that maybe coming out here was a bad idea. Just because Redglare had spared him before didn’t mean she was going to keep up at that. He didn’t know what the fuck to think of all this, but that’s why he was out here. To get some fucking answers already.

Instead of finding Redglare with her creepy grin and unnerving cheerfulness, he just about had a fucking heart attack when that new spirit fell unceremoniously out of the tree instead.

What followed was the most awkward conversation Dave had ever had, and there were some steep competition in that field so that was really a feat. The spirit (Karkat, so he was right about who he was and how he died) seemed equal parts terrified and annoyed with him. It was somewhere between hilarious and kind of sad. Dave had no idea what to make of it if he was being honest with himself. He was pretty sure both of them were just kind of dumbfounded by all this.

He seemed to get a little less nervous as they talked, and Dave wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. He guessed the spirit was still new and didn’t realize just how easily Dave could kill him right now. He kind of considered it a bit, especially when he had said to (it was so obviously a joke but he just had to make sure). He was here to ask Redglare some questions though, and he wasn’t going to ruin his chances for getting some answers by pissing her off and killing the new spirit.

Dave flailed around instinctively when there was a hand pulling him back from the other spirit, insisting that he wasn’t about to kill the dude when he realized it was Redglare. Before he could process much else the Trickster appeared and if something went wrong right now he was seriously fucked.

Trickster sounded genuinely concerned about the new spirit, which was still so fucking weird to hear. Especially from the fucking Trickster of all spirits. All he did most of the time was act like some dramatic movie villain, or villain lackey when he used to hang out with Spider all of the time.

Them being evil made sense and made it a heck of a lot easier to try to take them out. Now shit was starting to get complicated and Dave didn’t like it all that much.

He was a bit surprised when the new spirit sort of defended him. He was just telling the truth, because Dave hadn’t done anything, but he could have lied and at least say that Dave had threatened him, since it was obvious that he wasn’t injured or anything like that. Maybe he just hadn’t thought of doing something like that. He didn’t seem all that sinister or underhanded, just panicked like ninety-five percent of the time Dave saw him.

Redglare seemed a bit more rundown than Dave was used to, but he’d only seen her a few times so it wasn't like he was an expert. She didn’t answer his question but it seemed like she was going to, and get the new guy and trickster to leave on top of it. This definitely hadn’t gone how he’d thought it would, but if he could get her alone and then get out of here alive he might be able to just call his a success.

Then out of nowhere she was telling everyone to leave, and Dave had no clue what was with the change of mood until someone no one else had noticed before spoke up.

Dave swore everyone froze at the sound of an unexpected voice, or at least he knew that he did. It wasn’t because he was surprised at someone else being here, so many spirits were popping up left and right it’d be old news by now. It was because he fucking recognized that voice.

Dave stayed still for just a moment before he was turning and found himself confused as fuck because Sollux was there. He knew he hadn’t been at the base, Dirk didn’t say he was and he could see right through into his office anyway. He didn’t expect to see him here of all places though. Dave didn’t even know if anyone else knew about what happened at the base yet, let alone how anyone else would get the idea to come ask Redglare about it.

“Dude, what are you doing here?” he blurted out. Sollux looked just as confused as Dave felt, if not more so, but before he could say anything Terezi zapped in front of him.

“Oh no, we’re not going down this road. Cool kid you need to leave. You too John, everyone just go home,” she commanded. Dave knew that he should listen to the incredibly deadly spirit lady, but he wasn’t about to just leave a friend here.

“TZ care to explain what the fuck is going on?” Sollux asked, trying to move out from behind her. Dave felt like he was quickly losing grasp of the situation, if he ever had any grasp to begin with. It was a very real possibility that he didn’t and was just fooling himself in thinking he ever had any.

“TZ? What the fuck dude? What’s going on?” Dave asked, because seriously he had no idea what was going on or why Sollux would have a god damn nickname for Redglare. He seemed just as terrified if not more so the last time they had run into her, there was no reason for him to be all buddy-buddy with her now.

“That’s pretty much what I came here to find out,” Sollux said. Terezi let out another loud groan of frustration, letting her head fall into her hands.

“Everyone needs to fucking stop. John, do I seriously need to ask what you’re both still doing her?” she snapped, turning towards Trickster and the new spirit, both just kind of standing dumbly by the tree. Trickster yelped, grabbing a hold of the new spirit.

“Oh fuck no not the telepo-” the new spirit started to yell before he was cut off by the two disappearing.

“Well that happened,” Sollux commented oh so helpfully. He’d moved out from behind Redglare, and now Dave could get a clear look at him. Everything about him seemed normal, but then Dave noticed the faint way he make out the trees and bushes that were supposed to be behind him, it hard to notice at first in the early morning light. As soon as he realized it though Dave felt his stomach drop.

“Oh no. Oh fuck no, dude…” he trailed off, his grip tightening on his sword and he didn’t know what to do. Fuck, he didn’t even seem phased. He was acting like all of this was fine and it was so fucking far away from fine. Dave knew the guy was upset about what happened to Aradia, they all were, but he didn’t think…

“What the fuck is wrong with him?” Sollux asked, not sounding like he actually cared all that much, just curious. Redglare looked like she was about to punch the first thing that moved, rubbing her temples and as far as Dave could tell close as fuck to a mental breakdown. Frankly that didn’t seem fair, Dave felt much more deserving of a mental breakdown right now. Hell, Sollux should be the one having the mental breakdown out of all everyone here, and he seemed the most fine.

“Why does everything have to go wrong today?” she grumbled in a strained voice, before taking a deep breath and straightening herself out.

“Sollux, could you please stay right here? I need to explain a few things to the coolkid. It’ll only take a few minutes,” Terezi said, it clear that she was trying very hard to stay calm. Sollux nodded slowly and Dave couldn’t fucking take his eyes off of him, because shit.

“Uh, yeah sure thing, do what you need to I guess,” Sollux said. Suddenly she was next to him and grabbing onto his arm.

“Wait what are y-” Dave got cut off by a shooting pain in his head, and when he opened his eyes (when the fuck had he closed them?) Sollux was gone and it looked like they were in a different part of the forest. Okay then. “Think you could maybe not do that ever again? Thanks,” he said, understanding why that new spirit had been objecting before. Dave jumped several steps back when Redglare let go of his arm. He couldn’t help but hold them close to him, since the last time Redglare had taken a hold of his arms she’d just about ripped them right the fuck off.

“I’d love not to. Do you have any idea how difficult it is teleporting a living thing?” Redglare said. Dave figured that since he had no idea it was even possible the fact that it was hard seemed logical enough.

“Whatever, I don’t care. What the fuck did you people do to Sollux?” he asked, quickly getting himself back on the most pressing topic. Fuck, no one probably knew. When was the last time anyone heard from him? Probably when they’d ran into Redglare the last time. How could Dave go explain this after all the shit they just went through? They’d already pretty much lost Aradia, the base was destroyed, they couldn’t take something like this on top of everything else.

“We didn’t do anything to him! Stop freaking out, he’s perfectly fine,” Redglare insisted, and she sounded genuine but like fuck could Dave believe her.

“What the fuck do you mean he’s perfectly fine? He’s a fucking ghost!” Dave snapped, not even caring that this spirit could kill him if she wanted to. He’d just started coming to grips with the fact that spirit were normal people, he couldn’t deal with someone he knew becoming one as well.

“I know! I know okay, listen just calm down. I’ll tell you what’s going on, but you need to promise me you won’t tell anyone. Not even Sollux okay? Especially not him,” Redglare said, and Dave frowned in confusion. He didn’t know what the fuck she was going to tell him that Sollux didn’t already know himself, but he guessed there was only one way to find out.

“Alright, fine. Tell me exactly why I shouldn’t be freaking the fuck out right now,” he said. Redglare sighed and nodded.

“Well, he’s not dead for one thing,” she started. Dave instantly had to jump in at that because there was no fucking way that was true he just saw him.

“Are you kidding me? He was a spirit! As in a ghost, as in fucking dead,” Dave argued. Redglare started pressing at her temples again, closing her eyes and it was pretty disturbing how the blood was still leaking out of them. He wouldn’t say that he’d gotten used to that yet, but he could kind of put it out of his mind until she did something other than just staring blankly ahead with them.

“You think I don’t know that? Yes cool kid, that’s how it usually works, but your friend is strange, okay?” she said, and Dave didn’t believe her yet, but he was going to at least try to listen.

“I got a name, you know,” he said.

“And so do I, but since you insist on calling me by your nickname I don’t see why I can’t do that same,” she said, and Dave thought for a moment before shrugging.

“Fair enough, but back to Sollux. If he’s not dead than what the fuck is going on?” he asked.

“You swear you won’t tell a soul? That includes your little twin you know,” Redglare said. Dave hesitated a moment. He was planning on talking to Rose after this, but he supposed to could always leave this part out. It depended on what it was of course, but he needed to find that out.

“Alright, deal. Lay it on me Redglare,” he said.

“He’s not dead, like I said. There’s just this sort of thing where his soul leaves his body when he’s asleep, or at least that’s as far as I’ve been able to tell,” Redglare explained. Dave felt his eyebrows shoot up at that, because what the absolute fuck? How was that even possible?

“That’s a thing that can happen? How the fuck does something like that happen? Is it just like ‘whoops, I’ve appeared to knock my soul loose, now it’s gonna go wandering the nights whenever I’m unconscious like a total tool,” Dave asked, feeling himself get more and more worked up as he spoke.

“I don’t know everything coolkid. Maybe that’s exactly how it works. All I know is that that’s how Sollux is, and he has no idea, okay? His spirit self never has any memories from when he’s awake, and I’d bet that it works the other way too, so you can’t bring this up with him. I’m sure he’ll figure it out one day on his own, but until then this is not something you can go around talking about,” Redglare told him. Dave nodded once again. He kind of had a feeling that going back on a promise to Redglare would not be a smart move.

“I won’t say shit, okay? As long as he’s not giving you guys inside details or anything,” he said. Dave didn’t want to believe that Sollux would do something like that. The dude was an asshole sometimes, or well most of the fucking time, but Dave liked him well enough. Thinking that he could have been working with the enemy all this time and helping them do things like attack their base or let Redglare know where they were past the void shields hurt.

Of course, this also explained why she had seemed genuinely worried about him back when they had ran into her before, and how she knew that Sollux hadn’t been sleeping at all. If he was a spirit while he slept, then that meant he hadn’t been showing up much while he was doing his insomniac binge building. His spirit self was most likely genuinely friends with some of these people. Dave wasn’t sure how to feel about that, so he tried to push it out of his mind as much as he could for now.

“He’s not, don’t worry about that,” Redglare reassured him. He knew he shouldn’t just take her word for it, so he’d try to look into it more himself later. Until he found sometime proving otherwise though, he’d choose to believe her.

“Alright then, yeah I won’t tell anyone,” Dave said. A thought came to him and he felt himself go cold.

“What’s wrong now?” Redglare asked, and Dave tried to school his face back into something more neutral. He hadn’t thought he’d been making a face, but apparently Redglare could see right through whatever shield he was trying to hold up.

“If Sollux is like, a spirit half the time, and doesn’t know that he’s actually a human,” Redglare made a face at that. “You know what I mean! Not saying you guys aren’t people, but whatever, not the point here. If he’s a spirit does that mean he like, you know? That he…” Dave trailed off.

“That he what? Kills people? Is that what you’re trying to get at cool kid?” Redglare asked, a slight sadistic undertone to her voice. Dave frowned, nodding after a moment. There wasn't any need to put it like that, but she was right. Best to just get it all out there for everyone to see.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. Has he ever killed anyone?” Dave forced himself to ask, even though he did not want to know the answer at all when it came right down to it.

“No, he hasn’t,” Redglare said and instantly Dave felt relief rush through him. “He doesn’t talk about it, I think he’s confused by the fact that he doesn’t seem to need to. It’s probably because he’s still alive and all,” she added and Dave supposed that made sense. If you didn’t need to Dave couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone in their right mind would.

He didn’t quite get why someone would even needing to though, or maybe not why, but how. None of them seemed to feel guilty in the slightest for killing hundreds of people. That was one thing he could still hold onto.

“That’s good,” Dave said at last. At least with all of this he didn’t have to deal with the fact that one of his friends was unknowingly a murderer as well.

He was about to try to think of a way to get the fuck out of here before Redglare decided he knew too much and dispose of him before he remembered that there was a fucking reason he came to see her in the first place. Dave started shuffling around on his feet a bit awkwardly, not too sure how to switch the subject back to the whole attack on the base.

Redglare looked him over a bit before sighing and shaking her head. “What do you want now?” she asked, and yeah Dave knew he was being obvious that time.

“You never answered my question before. Why the fuck did you stop spiderbitch?” he asked, figuring that was the best way to go about this. Redglare looked rather annoyed with him, rolling her eyes (god that would never stop of being fucking disgusting.)

“Right, all that. Do we really need to go through with this coolkid? Hasn’t enough happened to everyone today that we maybe just save this for another time?” she asked. Dave shrugged at that, because she actually had a point there. He’d rather just be done with all this too but unfortunately for all of them he couldn’t be.

“Believe me, I’m just as done as the next guy, but I kinda need some answers here,” he said. Redglare leaned against a tree and crossed her arms, and Dave could begin to make her out more and more as the sun started shining through the branches above them.

“First you want to know about my death, then Sollux and now this? What’s next? Would you like it if I accounted my life story for you?” she asked, sounding genuine but Dave was pretty damn sure she was being sarcastic.

“I wouldn’t count it out,” he answered. Hey, Redglare’s life story might end up being important at this point. With the way his life was going it seemed more likely than not if he was being honest with himself.

That managed to get a small laugh out of her, which was probably a good thing. Best to have the ruthless killer in a good mood.

“Alright then, I guess I’ll answer your question. As best as I’m able to, of course. Can’t be telling you everything, I’m sure you’ll understand,” she said, and hell that was better than what Dave could ask for. “Of course, if I tell you something you have to tell me something back, it's only fair,” she added, and yeah, he should have known there was a catch. There was always a fucking catch.

“Sure thing, I’ll answer a question. As best as I’m able to, of course,” he said, throwing her own words back at her. That just seemed to make her smile wider though.

“Well then, I suppose the gist of it is that Vriska’s plan was needless and over-dramatic and was destruction for the sake of destruction. Much like her, I must say. It wasn’t smart, and so I stopped her,” Redglare said, and Dave supposed that made sense. Before all of this started Redglare was the least active of the big three, at least from what he could tell.

“Why did she decide to attack in the first place?” Dave decided to press, see if he could get her talking just a little bit more. Every bit of information he could get would be valuable.

“Ah ah cool kid, I told you something so you gotta return the favor,” Redglare chastised, and yeah Dave didn't think it would work, but it was worth a try.

“Alright then, what do you want to know?” he asked. There wasn’t much he could tell her that would damage anything. Apparently Mom and Bro were keeping them way out of the loop from the important shit. It was kind of comforting right now, he couldn’t even get the chance to spill any important secrets, since he didn’t have any.

“Why are you so comfortable coming to me for information?” she asked after a small moment of thought, which Dave was sure she didn’t actually need. He found himself hesitating when he tried to answer, because he had no fucking idea. By all accounts he shouldn’t be comfortable at all. He should be trying desperately to stay away from her because she was dangerous and had killed many times before and would continue to do so. She’d attacked him and showed up when he was alone and tried to get them to kill a friend.

He was here though, and he was holding his sword but loosely because he knew it was pointless if it came down to a fight. If she wanted him dead he would be, there was no two ways about it.

“I don’t know. You haven’t killed me yet, and you’ve had plenty of opportunities to,” Dave said, because that’s pretty much what it boiled down to. She could have killed him and she hadn’t.

He supposed that wasn’t a perfect way to go about things though. He’d had chances to kill that new spirit, three times now. He got interrupted the first time yeah, and he wasn’t sure what came over him the second. This last time wasn’t anything like that, but he needed to talk to Redglare and that would probably just piss her off. If he had another chance, he’d take him out in a heartbeat, and it wasn’t like the spirit trusted him. He looked close to terrified the entire time they had talked.

He guessed he just couldn’t see what Redglare had to lose with killing him that made it feel more like she was making a deliberate choice to keep him alive.

“I’ll have to start making myself scarier then, won’t I? Can’t have you getting too comfy or anything,” Redglare said, and Dave felt himself freeze up a bit at that. Redglare’s smile widened slowly and threatening, before she burst out laughing after a moment.

“Don’t you worry now, I won’t go throwing more onto your little family’s plate. They have enough to deal with considering that wreck my oh so considerate sister left your base,” Redglare said, and Dave felt himself relax the slightest bit at that.

“Alright good, and it’s cool, don’t gotta be making yourself any more terrifying than you already are. I’m not planning on making this a habit, I swear,” Dave said.

“That would be the smart move,” Redglare said before pushing herself off of the tree trunk. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fill in our friend on what he’s missed these past few weeks he’s been missing. If he hasn’t woken up already,” she added, and oh yeah, Dave had forgotten that Sollux was apparently still waiting for Redglare to come back.

“Sure thing. Uh, just one question first, and I swear it’s not worthy enough to justify me telling you anything in return,” Dave said. Redglare raised an eyebrow a bit at that.

“Oh, and just what is it?”

“Which way is out of the forest? You kinda teleported us and now I have no fucking baring,” Dave asked. Redglare laughed once again and pointed to her right.

“That way cool kid, go home already,” she said, and with that she disappeared once again. Dave started out of the forest, taking notes on his phone of everything she’d said. The Sollux thing wasn’t something he was going to fucking forget, but he put it down anyway. He nearly dropped his phone when he replayed one of the last things she said over in his head.

‘My oh so considerate sister.’

So that’s who’s Redglare’s sister was. Dave wasn’t sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn’t that.

When he got home no one else was there yet, so it seemed like this whole thing had gone off without a hitch. Er, with a few hitches, but none that had to do with anyone else finding out what he was doing. Heading up to his room, Dave quickly slumped into bed, only just now realizing that he was still in his pajamas.

Ugh, whatever. At least no one had said anything about it. He didn’t have enough energy to change anyway.

Instead, he tried to just get some sleep and prepare for the yelling he would get from Rose when he told her what he’d done.

Chapter Text

Dave eventually managed to pass out, fucking exhausted from the absolute chaos that was the night. He didn’t wake up until late into the day. It was already three in the afternoon when he glanced at his phone, still half asleep. Groaning into his pillow, he gave himself a few more minutes to try to wake up before attempting to do anything else. Even then, the only thing he did was flip over onto his back and send Rose a text, fully intending not to get out of bed if it wasn’t necessary.

TG: hey you home or at the base
TG: or whats left of the base i guess
TT: Home.
TT: I take it you’re finally awake?
TG: yeah
TG: you busy or could you head over here
TG: we need to talk
TT: I’ll be right there.
TG: cool

Dave didn’t bother sitting up or anything as he waited for Rose to come over, instead just trying to think about how exactly he was going to go about this. She’d want to know about everything he learned, which included the whole Sollux thing. He should tell her about the whole Sollux thing. Sure, going back on a promise to Redglare seemed like a pretty dumb thing to do, but that didn’t change the fact that this was important stuff. If they couldn’t actually trust Sollux, then who knows what kind of shit he could have been leaking to the spirits.

The main issue holding him up though wasn’t Redglare. The idea of her finding out he went back on his word was terrifying and all, but he could figure out ways to tell Rose without the spirit overhearing. The problem was Sollux himself.

Dave had no fucking idea what to think about all this, but he wanted to believe that Redglare was telling the truth when she said Sollux didn’t know about it. He was pretty damn set on giving him the benefit of the doubt on this one, even if it was a dangerous as fuck thing to do. Sollux was a fucking douchebag, but he was also his friend.

He didn’t know if Rose would be able to keep this to herself though. There was no doubt that she’d look into it, which wasn’t a bad thing. Dave planned to look into it himself after all, but he didn’t know how long she could resist confronting him about it. Dave only wanted to do that as a last resort. If he found something that suggests Sollux wasn’t actually on their side.

Until then, he wasn’t going to tell Rose about this. Deciding that was one thing of course. Actually managing to keep her from prying the information out of him was another obstacle entirely. He just hoped that when he told her about the rest of the bullshit he’d went through it would distract her enough that she wouldn’t notice that he was hiding anything else. It was his only hope to keep it from her at this point. Normally he would think it was unlikely, but with everything going down, it actually seemed possible for once.

It didn’t take long for Rose to show up in his room, and Dave still wasn’t feeling the whole getting up thing. The bed creaked some when she sat down on the edge and Dave slowly rolled over onto his back so that he could actually see her. He still didn’t bother pushing himself up or anything like that, but hey this was polite enough.

“You didn’t miss much, I don’t think anyone understand what just happened,” Rose said, sounding tired and frustrated. Dave was confused for a moment before he realized that she must have thought he’d wanted to talk to her about what they were all doing without him. He wanted to know all of that for sure, but it could wait. Finally he pushed himself up so that his back was up against the headboard.

“You did,” he said, catching her off guard. She frowned, raising an eyebrow at him.

“What do you mean?” Rose asked, and yeah Dave was definitely going to get chewed out for this, but fuck if it wasn’t worth it.

“You missed much. You missed quite a lot if I’m being honest here,” he said. Rose stared at him for a moment before taking a large, slow breath.

“Dave,” she started, her voice forced calm, “what did you do?” she finished. Dave wanted to argue with the accusatory tone to her voice, but yeah there was no way he could justify that. He deserved that tone.

“Well, let’s first focus on the fact that I’m clearly still alive, which is the most important issue here when we get right down to it,” he said, wanting to keep any potential blow up as small as possible.

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind,” Rose said. Dave was starting to wonder if maybe he could just not tell her, but no he was already past that point. She wasn’t going to leave now until she knew exactly what had gone down.

“Okay, so I kind of went and asked some spirits a few questions about what went down,” he explained. Already Rose was looking most unhappy with this, and if the situation was reversed Dave was pretty sure he couldn’t blame her on that. It was kind of the stupidest fucking thing he could have possible done.

“Some spirits? Are you really telling me that you did not go up to just one of these creatures, but several?” Rose asked. Dave hadn’t even realized he’d given away that yet and whoops.

“To be fair I only meant for it to be one, but then they weren’t there but that new spirit was so I talked to him for a bit. Then she got back and she wasn’t alone so I just kind of had to roll with it,” he explained, and yeah that didn’t make it sound any better. Rose sighed once again, starting to rub between her eyes and Dave knew it was just going to get worse from here.

“Which spirits were they?” she asked. Ugh, definitely going to get worse.

“I’m alive,” he defended, hoping maybe she would just drop it.

“Which spirits?” she asked again, not budging. He didn’t expect her to in the slightest, but it was worth a shot.

“Redglare, Trickster and the new guy,” Dave spat out as quick as he could. Rose leaned forward, letting her head fall into her lap. That was just about one of the best reactions he could have hoped for, so Dave wasn’t about to comment on it. After a few moments where he assumed she was just letting the information sink in, she slowly sat back up, keeping her head in her hands and not looking at him.

“You went and talked to three of the spirits involved in the attack, immediately after it happened,” she said. Dave could tell it wasn’t a question but found himself nodding anyway.

“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up,” he couldn’t do anything but admit his actions here. “But hey, look at this still alive guy and everything, living it up and totally not murdered,” he added. Rose finally turned to look at him, still so done with him.

“At this point, I wouldn’t doubt that’s only because you’re making it too easy for them. I suppose spirits like a bit of a challenge and not just something thrown into their lap, practically begging to be killed,” she said.

“Hey, whatever works, ya know?” Dave said with a shrug. He knew he shouldn’t be making light of this, it was fucking incredible that he was still alive, but that was the only thing he knew how to do.

“Well, was putting your life in danger useful in the least bit?” Rose asked and Dave quickly nodded. He could say that for sure.

“Yeah, definitely. Well mostly I’m pretty sure it was, like they could’ve been lying but it didn’t seem like it,” he started. Rose nodded, waiting for him to continue and actually tell her what he found out. Dave snatched up his phone to look at the notes he’d taken earlier.

“Well apparently it was spider behind all of this, and Redglare was legitimately there to stop her, not doing some weird mobius double reach around trap thing,” he said. Rose looked concentrated as she listened, Dave could just about see the gears working in her head.

“Did you find out why she had attacked in the first place?” Dave sighed and shook his head at that.

“No, the new spirit just kept saying that Spider’s fucking insane. Redglare implied she had some sort of plan, but it wasn’t good for whatever Teredzi wanted in the long run,” he told her. The serious expression on Rose’s face faltered a bit, and Dave wasn’t sure what that was about.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“Uh, whatever Spider wanted to do wasn’t good for Redglare in the long run?” he said with a shrug, not sure what the fuck she was getting at in the slightest.

“Alright then,” Rose said. Well that was weird. “Was there anything else you found out?” she asked, and okay he supposed they were done with whatever that was.

“Redglare and Spider are sisters,” Dave said, figuring that was a pretty big thing he should get out of the way. He wasn’t sure how it was big, but he knew it was. Rose wanted to know how they all became spirits after all, and Redglare had said that her sister killed her. If that sister was Spider that was probably an important detail.

“Really?” Rose asked, sounding just as surprised as Dave had been.

“Yeah, According to Redglare they are,” he said. Rose hummed softly under her breath as she thought this over.

“We have no idea how Spider actually became a spirit, do we?” she asked. Dave frowned and shook his head.

“No, and no to whatever you’re thinking about. I mean I know I’ve made some dumb decisions, but at least Redglare has been proven to be willing to let people go. Even the other spirits think Spider is fucking insane,” he said. Rose seemed surprised for a moment before waving his concern away.

“Dave, I am not that idiotic. There’s no way any of us are going to go to Spider for answers, that would be about as intelligent as inviting the Ringmaster over for lunch. You do not have to worry about that,” she said, and Dave relaxed some. He just had to be certain about that. After what happened with Aradia, apparently nothing was off limits.

“Okay good,” he said. “But yeah, no one said what they were up to, but Trickster insisted they weren’t trying to kill anyone. Also I think that new spirit is just kind of going along with whatever? Didn’t seem like he knew much about what’s going on,” Dave explained, skimming through his notes again to see if there was anything else he could tell her.

“Well, I still don’t think we can believe every little thing they say, but this is all still good to know. Certainly a lot more than anything we accomplished,” Rose said, grumbling that last bit to herself more than talking to him.

“What did you guys accomplish?” Dave asked, figuring now was a good a chance as ever. He figured it would be a good idea to get off the topic of everything he did before Rose had too much time to think about it and started getting pissed at him again for making stupid decisions.

“Arguing, for the most part,” she said, which wasn’t all that much of a surprise to Dave. It had seemed like fighting was going to be in order after all that, which was one of the reasons he wasn’t too upset about getting left out of it.

“About anything in particular?” he asked. Rose sighed heavily before shaking her head, and yeah, it didn’t seem like it had gone well at all.

“Mostly about Spider’s motivation, it seemed to be that while no one could quite say what it was, everyone knew it wasn’t whatever everyone else was thinking,” she said. Yeah, Dave definitely didn’t regret not being there. Considering the fact that he hadn’t even died or anything, he’d say not being there was preferable.

“So, what do we do now?” Dave asked, because he wasn’t sure what to do with everything he found out. If everyone else here was just arguing it didn’t seem like they had much of a plan.

“Well, it would be best not to rock the boat too much right now. I’ll see if there’s anything else to find out using the information you gathered that doesn’t require putting ourselves into even more danger,” Rose said. Dave knew that he’d been pushing his luck with this last stunt and was perfectly fine with no longer rocking the boat.

“Do they want us to head to the base to help clean up more?” he asked, figuring that since he was up he might as well make himself useful.

“More likely than not, I’ll go check,” Rose said, and Dave nodded before slumping back down into his bed. He wasn’t super tired anymore, but he still didn’t feel like getting up if he didn’t have to, especially if he needed to go help clean up soon. After a few moments Rose came back and they did want them over at the base to help. Dave groaned but got up and dressed.

The base was still a complete and utter mess when they got there, but it was obvious that there had been some work done. Most of the rubble up front was cleared away, which helped with actually being able to walk inside. The inside still looked like a tornado bomb had gone off though, and he figured that’s where they should start.

The next couple of hours were mainly spent attempting to not get cut when handling lots of splintered wood and broken glass. Dave found himself mostly successful in this endeavor, although there were quite a few stops required for him to pick out splinters.

Dave had cleaned up Sollux’s office as best as he could. He took a bit more time there than he did anywhere else, looking around for anything that might suggest he was working with the spirits. He was pretty sure no one noticed, since the room was an absolute wreck and had a god damn hole blown in it. He didn’t find anything suspicious, which was a much larger relief than he realized it would be. Sure, he wasn’t completely in the clear, dude just might be smart enough not to leave incriminating material at fucking work, but it was still something.

Every so often mom or bro would flash by. Apparently Bro cracked a couple ribs during the fight, not that Dave could tell in the slightest. Fucking dude didn’t slow down one bit. Neither of them said much of anything, which technically wasn’t anything unusual. With everything that had gone down though, it seemed pretty damn strange and unnerving.

There was just an air around everything that Dave hadn’t felt in a long time. They both seemed genuinely freaked out about all this. The last time it was even close to this was when they were attacked by the Ringmaster when they were young, and that didn’t even seem as bad as now.

Dave tried to ignore it. Just focus on trying to find anything salvageable in all the mess and let them decide what needed to be done. There was some guilt there withholding information, but if it was super crucial he was sure that Rose would have insisted telling someone. She was better at judging that kind of stuff than he was.

Roxy stopped by and helped for a while, looking tired. Dave wondered if anyone else had bothered getting much if any sleep after everything that had happened. He knew they were all twisted up about this. He was too. He wasn’t sure how he managed to get to sleep, but he wouldn’t be surprised if everyone else wasn’t as lucky.

Dave was about to try and call it in for the day. Night? He’d slept in pretty damn late, and it was like eleven at night now and he was ready to just go home and get something to eat.

He actually managed to make it home without anyone swooping out of the sky and attacking him or getting pulled into even more endless drama with everything going on at the base.

Dave had just barely stepped inside the doorway when someone was grabbing his shoulder, yanking him roughly inside and slamming him back against the wall. He reached for the sword at his side, drawing it in a flash. He jerked to a stop when he saw Dirk glowering down at him, his own weapon not drawn or anything.

“Dude, what the ever loving fuck?” Dave snapped, forcing his heart to slow down. God damn it, he was so tired of this shit, he didn’t need it from his family as well. Sure surprise strifes weren't anything new, but with the tension of everything they could tone it down just a notch.

“I should be asking you that,” Dirk growled, and okay, dude was pissed. Dave had no idea what the hell had set him off, but even if he did it was best to play dumb for now.

“What are you talking about? Where’ve you even been all day? We could have used some help back at the base,” he argued, trying to move around Dirk so that he could maybe escape to his room. The other boy was in front of him again before he could take two steps. Dave knew it was a lost cause, but he was going to keep trying anyway.

“You have lost all fucking right to question anyone anymore,” Dirk said. Dave was starting to get a sinking feeling, but he tried to tell himself that maybe it wasn’t like that. He knew Rose wouldn’t have told on him, if Dirk had been eavesdropping there was no reason for him not to corner them before they left.

“Alright man, now if you could maybe tell me what the hell it is I did to fuck up this time, that’d be appreciated,” Dave said, annoyance clear in his voice. Dirk grabbed him roughly by the arm, starting to drag him towards the stairs. “Ouch! Fuck man, think we could try this without breaking my arm?”

“Nope,” Dirk answered, only letting go once he had Dave in his room and the door locked behind them.

“Have you fucking lost it?” Dave snapped, pulling his arm close to his chest so that Dirk couldn’t go grabbing at him again.

“Have you lost it?!” Dirk yelled right back.

“I don’t fucking know! Maybe if you could stop parroting me and tell me what the fuck’s going on we could figure out this question of the ages,” he argued, although he was pretty damn sure he knew what this was about now. How Dirk knew, he had no clue, but he was pretty sure that would be one thing that would definitely set him off like this.

“You seriously need me to spell it out for you?” the other boy asked, frustration radiating off of him.

“Yes, because I’m not admitting to anything you might not know and make this wore,” Dave told him, figuring that made perfect sense. Dirk gave him the most incredulous look, sighing and pinching his nose as he turned away.

“Trust me, I’m pretty damn sure you couldn’t make this worse if you tried,” he said.

“You’d be surprised,” Dave countered. Yeah, he shouldn’t be joking right now, but it wasn’t technically a joke. He was pretty damn sure that Dirk could be very surprised, depending on what it was he found out.

“You went and purposefully provoked some of the most powerful spirits around, alone, directly after that had attacked us. All so that you could ask some questions?!” Dirk said, biting off each word and sounding just barely contained from fully exploding on the other boy.

“How the fuck did you know that?” Dave asked. He knew Rose wouldn’t have told, he was with her all day for one thing! Secondly, she had her own shit she wanted keeping secret, she’d be dragged down by association if nothing else.

“That’s not the fucking point here,” Dirk deflected, and yeah okay, something was up.

“No way man, I’ll admit I was being fucking stupid, but you can’t just brush this shit off,” Dave argued.

“Too fucking bad, because I am. What the fuck were you thinking? Don’t think Rose isn’t getting shit for this too by the way, but you’re way more at fault,” Dirk said. Dave groaned, because while it was great that he wasn’t the only one getting in trouble here, that didn’t help him much right now. The fact that Dirk was being so goddamn stubborn about not telling him just how he found this out was frustrating as shit too.

“I’m not talking to you about this until you tell me how the fuck you found out,” Dave said. At the very least, it gave him some time to try to wrap his mind around how he could explain this without causing Dirk to flip out even more.

“Are you fucking serious?” Dirk snapped. Dave didn’t say anything, just staring him down and waiting for him to come clean. He knew the situation should be reversed, and that it most certainly would be in a few moments, but for now he was going to hold onto what he had.

Dirk gave a frustrated sigh, seeming to give in. “Fine, but then you have to tell me everything,” he said, and a bit reluctantly Dave nodded. He wasn’t going to say everything, Sollux was off limits. It didn’t seem like Dirk had a clue about any of that though, so he could probably keep it under wraps.

“Sure thing, just tell me how you found out already,” Dave said.

“This,” Dirk said, walking over to his desk and grabbing sometime off of it. When he held it out for the other boy, Dave was confused by the black plastic square, smaller than the palm of his hand. “It’s just a simple recording device, I put them in every room of the house when we got back after the base was attacked,” he explained. Dave could feel his eyebrows rise up in shock as he gave Dirk a look.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!?” he snapped, because seriously? Spying on everyone? That was something he could see Bro doing, but he kind of thought better of Dirk then to do that. Even with the paranoia that must be going around lately. He was the slightest bit confused about when the other boy could have gotten in his room to place the thing, but he guessed it was when he’d been sleeping.

“You have no fucking right to judge. With the spirits attacking as they have I thought it would be best to take some precautions. I wasn’t even supposed to find anything yet, I was just testing them all out to see if they actually worked and I heard you talking to Rose,” Dirk continued, and yeah, that didn’t make it any better.

“Dude, you can’t be recording everyone. Holy shit, yeah the spirits are a big deal, but what the fuck do you expect to find from us?” Dave snapped.

“I didn’t expect to find anything, but apparently I found a fucking lot. Is this a thing you’ve been doing? Just going and chatting with spirits? They could have killed you! They should have killed you!” Dirk yelled. Dave knew it would get turned back around onto him fast, and he couldn’t even be upset about it.

“But they didn't, and no, this was the first time. At least, the first intentional time,” Dave told him. He could have just kept it as the first time, but he was stressed and not too good at keeping his mouth shut.

“How many ‘unintentional’ times were there?” Dirk asked, and Dave frowned as he tried to think that over. It shouldn’t have been too hard of a question, but it still kind of was.

“Two or three, depending on what you count. I mean, the first time I was tricked I wouldn’t count, but then there was the time Redglare showed up at Feferi’s. We talked for a little while before she started jumping all over the house, and then once when walking in the woods with Sollux we just happened upon her base I guess,” Dave explained. Dirk collapsed down into his desk chair, rubbing at his temples and looking so very frustrated and so very much like Bro. It was kind of unnerving.

“You’re going to get yourself killed,” Dirk muttered, almost sounding worried in a way. Dave could be a little bit more understanding of that, if he wasn’t still pissed about Dirk invading his privacy and all that. He was still quite rightfully pissed off when it came to that, in his opinion.

“I’m not going back! This was just an extreme situation, and no one else was getting any answers,” Dave argued. He knew Dirk was pissed off, but he had to convince him that he wasn’t going to pull this shit again. It was the only hope he had at maybe getting him to keep it a secret.

“Like fuck are you going back. We could have found some answers, these things take time when you’re actually trying to be careful,” Dirk said.

“Can we all just agree it was dumb and forget about it?” Dave asked, even though he knew it wouldn’t be that simple.

“Hell no. We ain’t forgetting about this, what the fuck possessed you to do something like this?” the older boy snapped. Dave just sort of made an uncertain noise and shrugged, moving to sit down on Dirk’s bed. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to attack him again, and if he did at least the bed was a decent distance away that Dave would be able to dodge the first strike at least.

“I don’t know. She could have killed me before and she hadn’t. I thought it was worth the risk,” Dave said, because that was honestly what he was thinking when he decided to do that.

“Well, it wasn’t, just letting you know that now,” Dirk told him. Dave wanted to argue with that, but he figured now wasn’t the best time.

“Whatever. So, if you listened to the whole conversation do we really gotta go over it all again, I told Rose everything,” Dave said. He’d rather keep this conversation as short as possible. He doubted that Dirk would allow that though.

“Yes, we do gotta go over it all again. Even more than just that, actually, since you had apparently seen Redglare one more time than I was aware of,” he said. Dave groaned, but yeah, he had definitely seen this coming.

“You fucking suck,” he grumbled, but Dirk didn’t seem phased in the slightest.

“Get talking,” was all he said instead.

“I don’t know if Sollux said anything about the little device he made,” Dave started, figuring Dirk would want to know about that if he didn’t already.

“Dude hasn’t spoken to much of anyone since Aradia,” Dirk told him. Dave figured he didn’t know, and now he was going to feel like shit for spilling this information. He guessed it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though. If Sollux was on their side like he said, he’d let them know about the spirit tracker eventually, right?

“Okay, so Sollux made this device that tracks where spirits have been. He wanted me to help him test it out because I’ve run into a couple spirits off the clock I guess, and when we were fucking around with it I guess it worked too well and we ran into Redglare. She didn’t attack or anything, pretty much just told us to fuck off,” Dave explained. Dirk was typing away at his computer, Dave was sure noting everything he said.

“Where was this again? You said it was some sort of base for her?” Dirk asked and Dave nodded.

“Yeah, you know that woods out behind Feferi’s house? There. She said if I ever needed anything to stop by, so I guess she’s there a lot of the time,” he said.

“Can’t fucking believe you actually decided to take her up on that offer. That doesn’t even sound like a trap, it sounds like a fucking joke,” Dirk grumbled. Dave could definitely understand that, but still, fucking rude.

“I never said it was a smart plan, okay? I know it was dumb as shit, but hey, it worked, and I’m alive,” Dave told him.

“Sorry to burst your bubble but you didn’t find out fucking shit man. Spider being behind this was already a goddamn given, unless you had a brilliant hunch that the new spirit cowering in the doorway was the mastermind behind it all,” Dirk mocked. Dave glared at him, because he could admit that it was a bad idea, but he sure as fuck didn’t think it was all a complete waste.

“Found out more than that you know,” he tried to argue, but Dirk cut him off.

“All of which is probably a long strand of lies. You think Redglare is stupid enough to let anything important slip? Even if it any of it’s true, who gives a shit. So Redglare and Spider might be related or something, that’s not fucking useful. We already know those two spirits are at ends with each other. The whys don’t matter,” Dirk told him, sounding sure as could be. Dave didn’t even know what to say to that, he was half tempted to let loose what he found out about Sollux, but that was so not worth getting the leverage in a shitty argument.

“Fuck you man, I was just trying to help,” he snapped instead. He couldn’t see behind Dirk’s shades, but he knew for a fact that the other boy was rolling his eyes.

“Well don’t ever fucking help again if that’s your definition of help. How fucking long have you and Rose been keeping shit like this between the two of you,” he asked.

“Just since running into Redglare in the woods, it’s not like we have this big conspiracy man. Mom and Bro have been keeping shit from us, we just figured that it couldn’t hurt to do the same thing,” he said. Dirk groaned loudly at that, leaning back in his chair, clearly frustrated.

“God fucking damn it, is that what all of this has been about?” he snapped. Dave frowned and raised an eyebrow at him.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked, not quite getting what he was going on about now.

“You’re both doing this little rebellion thing because they didn’t tell you about where spirits came from? Seriously? Could you try to be any more immature?”

“That’s not what this is about! Lots of shit has been happening fast okay? It’s hard to know what to do,” Dave tried to defend himself. Dirk didn’t seem convinced in the slightest bit though.

“What to do is to keep out of danger, and tell everyone anything you might have learned and not keep any encounters with spirits under wraps, okay? This shit is serious. You saw what happened to Aradia when she tried to do her own thing. That very fucking easily could have been you today,” Dirk told him, serious down to the bone.

Dave wanted to argue, but he knew when it came right down to it he was right. He could be dead right now, and he was lucky as shit that Redglare seemed content with letting him live.

“It won’t happen again, okay,” he said. Dirk didn’t look like he believed him all that much, but Dave was telling the truth. He didn’t want to keep sticking his neck out like this, Redglare was fucking terrifying.

“I already told you that it sure as fuck won’t, not once the bosses here about it,” Dirk said. Dave jolted up from where he’d been sitting, slightly panicked.

“Oh come the fuck on man, you are not pulling the ‘I’m telling mom’ card. You can’t fucking tell them,” Dave said, not quite pleading yet, but he was fully prepared to if need be.

“If you want to see it like that fine, but I’m still telling them,” Dirk said.

“Dude, nothing happened, I found out nothing useful, can we please not tell them. I’ll never be let out of the house again,” Dave started to beg.

“Good, apparently that’s what you need to stay out of trouble,” Dirk said. Dave groaned, flopping back down on the bed. He hated this, Dirk was fucking terrible and stubborn as hell. He couldn’t deal with him.

“Fuck, could you at least talk to Rose first? And also get rid of all those recorders because that’s fucking insane man,” Dave tried.

“Yes and no,” Dirk told him. Dave pushed himself so that he was sitting up again, glaring at the older boy.

“Then I’m telling mom and bro about them. I know they’ll make you get rid of em, with all the secrets they have and shit,” Dave said. Dirk gave him a look, not saying anything for a moment, probably weighing the likelihood of them actually making him get rid of the recorders.

“Fine, I’ll get rid of them,” he conceded after a moment, “but I’m still telling them,” Dirk added. Dave grumbled, but he supposed that was all he could do for now.

“Just talk to Rose first, she can explain this shit better than I can,” he said.

“I know she can, don’t worry, I’m talking to her as soon as she gets back,” Dirk told him. Alright then, Dave just had to pray that Rose could convince him not to spill everything, it was his only hope.

Until they talked though, there wasn’t much else Dave could do.

---

Karkat tried to protest when John grabbed him, but once again he found himself disoriented and breathless as the scenery around them switched in a flash. After a moment he was able to pull himself back together, seeing that it was just him and John now.

“Why do we always have to fucking teleport,” he grumbled, trying not to take any noticeable deep breaths. He knew breathing wasn’t something he needed to do anymore, but it still felt like it. Thankfully if it was noticeable, John didn’t comment on it any.

“It’s a lot faster and less awkward than running away, for one thing,” was all he said instead. Karkat grumbled to himself, because he guessed that was true, but he still didn’t fucking like it one bit.

“Are you sure that hunter didn’t hurt you any?” John asked after a moment, looking Karkat over.

“Yeah, he just wanted to see Terezi for some fucking reason, I have no clue what just happened honestly,” Karkat told him. He guessed that hunter could have killed him once again, but he hadn’t. It was fucking freaky if he was being honest, and he’d rather not think about it. Maybe the guy was just super incompetent. He didn’t seem to have too much of an idea about what he was doing after all. It’d make a lot more sense than anything else Karkat could think of.

“Well that’s good at least, I’d feel horrible if something happened to you while I wasn’t around,” John told him. Karkat just shrugged, because yeah he guessed it was definitely a good thing. He wouldn’t want to get hurt and either fucking double die or have to eat again right away.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he said, waiting a moment before speaking again. “So, are we done here or do you need to talk to Terezi again?” he asked.

“We’re done here, I think. I hope so at least, let’s leave just in case though,” John told him. Karkat rolled his eyes, but he could understand not wanting to be stuck getting lectured by that crazy as fuck girl. Thankfully, John didn’t seem insistent on teleporting, just starting to walk. Karkat was going to just assumed that he knew where the fuck he was going.

“So,” he started, figuring it wasn’t any of his business, but he was curious none the less, “what did you and Terezi talk about exactly? If I’m allowed to know,” Karkat asked. John shrugged, looking a bit awkward and very much like he didn’t want to answer the question at all. Karat just waited, figuring if he couldn’t say, he would tell him.

“It’s not that you’re not allowed to know! I don’t want to keep secrets if I can help it, I swear,” John started, and that did seem like him. He wasn’t all that good of a liar from what Karkat had seen. “It wasn’t anything important, honestly,” he mumbled, and Karkat shrugged once again. He guessed it wasn’t a big deal to know, and John sounded more embarrassed than anything else.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. Is everything going to be okay though? Hunters aren’t going to start like, dropping out of the fucking sky or some shit?” he asked. John started laughing at that, only answering him after a few moments.

“No, I don’t think that’s going to happen, it’d be pretty crazy if it did though,” he said. “Everything should be fine, I mean, I’m not too sure, but we didn’t really talk about that. We just kind of, I don’t know, talked about Vriska and stuff, not important I promise,” John added. Well, that kind of explained why he was embarrassed.

“Alright then, if you say so,” Karkat said, figuring it was best to just let this topic drop for now. It wasn’t any of his business if John had some weird hang-ups or crush on someone completely and utterly insane.

After a while the two finally made their way out of the forest, and Karkat didn’t quite recognize the area they were in, so he guessed they had come out a different way than the last time. Karkat had no fucking idea what they were going to do now, but if he was being honest with what he wanted, he really fucking wanted to try to rest.

It was probably all the teleporting, but he was fucking exhausted. Or maybe it was all the fear. Although it could be both, that was always an option. Either way, he was tired and would very much like to find a place to hole up for a few hours and sleep.

“Hey, are you feeling okay?” John asked, surprising Karkat. Neither of them had spoken in a while, and he hadn’t expected him to.

“Yeah, just tired as fuck, it’s fine,” he insisted. John didn’t look like he believe him all that much, but honestly Karkat was pretty sure he was fine. Mostly. He just needed to fucking rest and stop being terrified out of his skull every other minute.

“Maybe you should rest for a little, I guess it has been a long night,” John suggested. Karkat figured that he was right, and it was getting pretty damn well into the day.

“Yeah, maybe,” he gave in, just sort of stopping and waiting for John to figure out where they were supposed to be resting.

John started walking again and Karkat followed him for a bit longer. Eventually they ended up stopping under an overpass, and normally Karkat would be uneasy being around a place that has so much potential for people to pass by, but right now he didn’t care. Instead he just slumped down, leaning against the dirty old walls and closing his eyes. It was pretty well into the day now, he was usually asleep at this point. That combined with everything else was probably what was doing this to him.

“Karkat?” John asked, hesitance clear in his voice.

“What?” Karkat asked back, not quite able to hide his annoyance. He was so tired and just wanted to get some fucking sleep already. They could talk about whatever they needed to do later.

“You don’t look so good,” he said. Karkat opened his eyes and glared at him a bit.

“No fucking kidding? Usually I look so spry and energetic, how strange,” he snipped. John gave a small chuckle, but quickly stopped.

“I’m serious Karkat, you’ve been through a lot, and um,” he hesitated.

“And what?” Karkat pressed, just wanting to know what the point was and get this over with so he could sleep.

“It has been a long time since you last ate. It’s uh, probably not a good idea to put it off for much longer,” he said. Karkat felt himself freeze up, dread washing over him at the suggestion.

“No, no fuck, it’s fine. I’m fine. I’m just tired, holy shit. It’s not a big deal, just let me fucking sleep already,” he insisted. John didn’t look like he believed him, but reluctantly he nodded.

“Alright then, but if you’re still feeling so worn out when you wake up you need to eat,” John insisted.

“I don’t need to do shit,” Karkat grumbled, shifting so that he was no longer facing the other spirit and closing his eyes again. Thankfully, John didn’t say anything else, and it took almost no time at all before Karkat was out cold.

He swore he couldn’t have been asleep for all that long at all before someone was shaking his shoulder and waking him up. Karkat jolted awake, sure that if he was being woken up already something was going wrong. Something was always going wrong.

“What? What the fuck’s going on?” he asked, feeling weary and confused. John was frowning down at him, a concerned look at his face, but he didn’t seem all that panicked or anything like he should be if someone was attacking them. John was pretty damn calm under attack though, so who fucking knows with him.

“Nothing’s wrong, you were just sleeping for a long time and I thought you might want to get up,” John told him. Karkat couldn’t do anything but stare at him for a moment, very fucking confused.

“What the hell are you talking about? I haven’t been asleep that long,” he grumbled. When he actually looked around however, he could see that it was quite dark out, much later than he usually woke up.

“Karkat, you’ve been asleep for like, 14 hours. I kept count,” John told him. Karkat looked away from him, messing with the gravel covering the area to keep himself busy.

“Eh, I’ve slept for longer before,” he said. It was true after all, it wasn’t that big of a deal. He either never fucking slept at all, or he slept way too god damn much, probably to make up for it or something.

“Karkat, I know you don’t want to, so I haven't said anything and have been letting you put it off, but you need to eat,” John said, a pleading tone to his voice. Karkat turned back towards the other boy, glaring up at him.

“I’m fine,” he insisted, standing his ground on this matter. He didn’t care what John said, he’d felt worse, he could get through this for a little bit longer. It would be okay.

“You’ll end up dying if you keep trying to avoid it!” John yelled, sounding increasingly dismayed with him. Karkat huffed and rolled his eyes at that though, not moved in the slightest.

“In case you haven’t fucking noticed, I’m already dead!” he sneered, because really, the threat of death got a lot less scary when you’ve been through it once before.

“You know what I mean!” John snapped, pulling at his hair some as he ran a hand through it. Karkat groaned in frustration, wanting to keep arguing but he was fucking tired. It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to being tired, it had just been nice being away from this feeling for a bit for once.

He knew John was right. He couldn’t put this off forever if he wanted to keep existing, but he just. Fuck. He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want any of this, but it was the hand he was dealt and unless he wanted to just let himself slowly fade away or whatever happened to spirits who refused to eat he’d have to get used to it. He just had no fucking idea how he was supposed to do that.

“I’ll help you again, okay? I know you’re not ready to do something like this on your own yet. It’ll be okay,” John said, his voice back to being calm and worried again. Karkat almost wished he’d just stay mad, it was a lot easier to fight back that way.

“Fine, what fucking ever, it’s not like I have a choice in all of this,” Karkat said after a long moment of silence. He could see John relax greatly as relief rushed through him, and Karkat wondered if he looked even worse than he imagined. He was use to feeling terrible, but he guessed John hadn’t seen a lot of that. It probably looked pretty bad to someone who didn't have that as their normal.

“Alright, I promise it gets easier, and once you get it over with you won’t have to again for a while,” John told him. Karkat supposed that was one way to look at it, but he was still unconvinced that it would just get easier. Or at least, he was still kind of hoping that it wouldn’t.

“Let’s just get it over with then,” Karkat mumbled. He wasn’t looking forward to this, quite the opposite in fact, but he also wasn’t looking forward to no longer existing.

“Right of course! So um, I know bad things tend to happen when I leave you alone, so it’s up to you if you want to come along or just like, have me bring you something back,” John said. Karkat did not have to think it over very long before coming to a decision.

“I’ll just wait here,” sure, shit could happen to him while he was alone. That seemed to be increasingly likely as more bullshit continued to pile up and up, but he’d rather put off the process of picking someone out and hunting them down or however the fuck they went about getting their victims for as long as possible.

“Okay then, I’ll be right back, I promise,” John said, disappearing as soon as he finished speaking. Karkat wished that he maybe didn’t go quite so fast, both wanting to get this over with but wanting to put it off as much as he could.

Once he was alone Karkat sighed heavily, pulling his knees up to his chest and resting his forehead on them. Fuck, he hated this. He felt sick down to his stomach that didn’t even fucking exist anymore. Or if it did, was half decomposed in a cheap ass box underground by now and not any problem of his anymore. He felt sick despite all of this, through sheer fucking force of will.

He tried not to think about whatever John was doing, and what he would end up doing soon, but it was kind of impossible to ignore. He could feel himself slowly starting to freak out about it, wrapping his arms around himself in an attempt to stop the shaking that had started up.

“You don’t look all too good brother, what's gone and stolen all your chill?”

Karkat flailed a bit, pretty damn sure he would have hit his head on the wall behind him if hitting his head was still a thing he could do. He was sure in his panic that another fucking hunter had happened upon him, because why the fuck not? It’s not like his day wasn’t going so god damn perfectly already. When he actually managed to get himself to focus however, he saw that it definitely wasn’t another hunter, thank any forces out there that seem to love swinging his sanity back and force.

“Fuck, um, it’s Gamzee, right?” he asked, looking at the other spirit sitting a little ways away from him and ignoring his initial question. He knew exactly what had stolen his ‘chill’ if he ever had any to begin with but he didn’t think taking his frustration and fear out on this dude was a good idea. A smile spread over his face and he nodded slowly at Karkat’s question.

“Hell yeah, that’s being who I am, and you’re up and Karbro, right?” Gamzee asked, leaning forward a bit, looking the other spirit over with clear curiosity. Karkat wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but he pushed any strange feelings of being scrutinized down to answer him.

“Sure, let’s go with that,” Karkat said. He still didn’t understand what it was with most spirits and nicknames, but it was probably best to just go along with it. Gamzee stayed smiling at him for a moment, and Karkat was about to ask if there was a reason why he’d decided to show up out of bumfuck nowhere when the smile started to slip off of his face some.

“You’re looking terrible as anything I’ve seen brother, what’s going on with a new spirit bro to get him all weary and huddled up alone like yourself?” Gamzee asked. Karkat had to bite him tongue to keep from snapping at him that it wasn’t any of his business. So far, despite how god damn strange and unsettling the guy was, he’d done nothing but try to help him out. Karkat knew that if he started yelling at him, he’d start getting overwhelmed with everything and freak the fuck out again, which is the last thing he wanted right now.

“It’s nothing, just haven’t fuck, eaten, in a while, I guess,” he admitted. God damn, he hated calling it eating. The way John had talked about just ‘bringing something back’ for him was incredibly unnerving, like they didn’t even see anything wrong with it. Just going out to grab a quick lunch, you want anything? Damn it was horrifying.

Gamzee’s face lit up once again at that, and Karkat instantly started to regret telling him what was going on.

“Well motherfuck brother, easiest fucking problem to fix there is. Let’s go get yourself something to get that terrible weariness out of ya,” Gamzee said, pushing himself up off of the ground. Karkat stayed right where he was, not about to move and certainly not about to go hunting down fucking random ass people with this guy.

“No, no it’s fine. John just went to grab me something, he’ll be back in a few minutes I promise. You can stay till he does if you don’t believe me,” Karkat quickly explained. He wasn’t having John practically kill someone and drag them back here only for Karkat to have already eaten. Gamzee frowned a bit at that, but sat back down.

“How much is a tricky brother bringin you? Lots of us spirit fuckers tend to be skimpy on the meals, ‘m sure you could up and use the extra food, all new and fresh as you are,” Gamzee said. Karkat instantly started shaking his head, because like fuck was he going to be eating extra. He didn’t give a single shit about getting strong. If he could just do what he needed to so he could survive that was fine by him. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t fight back against hunters, he’d like to just stay as far away from them as possible instead of getting up close as personal. Sure, that hadn’t worked out so far, but he was still going to try.

“I don’t need a lot, okay? Whatever John brings me is fine,” he insisted. Gamzee didn’t seem all too happy with that, but it also didn’t seem like he was going to push him any further.

“If that’s what you’re up and wanting, I’ll let the tricky breath brother handle it,” he said, and Karkat couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief.

“Yeah, John totally has it under control, nothing to worry about.” Karkat told him. He was pretty damn sure that John had it under control at least. It wasn’t like this was something he’d never done before, he could handle it well enough. It wasn’t something that Karkat wanted to think about though, so he tried to think of something to change the subject to.

“So uh, what are you doing here exactly?” he asked, since that was what he was pretty confused about in the first place. It was like he couldn’t be alone for five fucking minutes before some spirit or hunter just happened upon him. Sure, spirits were a lot better than hunters, but it was still pretty damn strange.

“Was just enjoying this beautiful motherfucking night when I caught sight of a little spirit brother alone and shaking under this here bridge and thought it’d be damn near blasphemy to leave him like that,” Gamzee explained. Karkat nodded, he supposed that made sense after all. Still seemed a bit strange, but everything about Gamzee seemed that way. From what John had said earlier, it seemed like the dude did tend to appear and disappear sort of at random. Maybe this was kind of normal for him.

“Oh, okay. You didn’t have to, I’m fine,” Karkat said, although he guessed he was a bit thankful for the distraction. Easier to focus on just talking to someone than on what he was going to do when John came back.

“Not a single problem Karbro,” Gamzee said. Karkat wasn’t sure what to do now but wait, and waiting was fucking torture. He curled himself back up how he was before, trying to look a bit more casual about it and not quite as pathetic as he had when Gamzee had happened upon him.

“You sure you all good? If a brother is taking too long, I can get you something real nice and quick,” the other spirit spoke up. Karkat groaned, knowing that he was trying to help, but holy fuck was he not helping in the slightest. He was pretty much just making it worse.

“No! Fuck, that’s not the problem here. He can take as long as he wants, I don’t give a shit,” Karkat snapped, wrapping his arms just the slightest bit tighter around his knees. It’d be fine. It was like John said, the sooner he did it the sooner he’d get it over with and wouldn’t have to think about it again for a while. It was just like getting shots and shit. Except instead of being an otherwise harmless prick, he was murdering someone.

“Well then, what is it that’s got you all torn up inside and out?” Gamzee asked, and Karkat wished he’d just go away. He didn’t want to be alone though, not with his luck and the hunters being all pissed off and if he was alone he wouldn’t have any distractions at all or any reason to at least try to save face.

“Oh you know, just trying to mentally prepare myself to kill someone, nothing big or anything. With the way everyone else is just so fucking calm about it clearly there’s no reason for me to be upset about it, just another day as an inhuman abomination, it’s perfectly fucking fine,” Karkat snapped. Fuck, he was going to freak out, wasn’t he? He didn’t want to freak before anything even happened. This was just plain horrible though. At least last time he didn’t have any real time to contemplate it.

“Aw, fuck brother,” Gamzee said, actually sounding concerned despite the sort of out there tone to his voice. “Being all fresh dead and kill shy ain’t a thing to be ashamed of, lots of us motherfuckers go through that stage,” he added, and Karkat just sort of shrugged, not bothering to look up at him. Sure as hell didn’t feel like a stage to Karkat, but what did he know?

“Sure, whatever you say, I guess,” Karkat mumbled, not sure what else to say. He wasn’t sure if ashamed was exactly the right word for what he was feeling. He wasn’t so much ashamed as he was fucking terrified of the whole process, but he guessed it was just semantics at that point. Whatever you labeled it as, it was pretty damn horrible, and he just wanted it to be over and done with already.

Before either of them could say anything else, movement near the edge of the overpass caught Karkat’s attention. He managed to make out John dropping someone to the ground with a dull thud, and he instantly wanted to throw up. He was already regretting wishing for it to happen quickly, he much rather would put it off now that it was right in front of his face again.

“I’m back! You might want to eat fast before um, oh. Hey Gamzee. When’d you get here? You really can’t spend five minutes alone, can you Karkat?” John said as he walked under the overpass and noticed the spirits there. Gamzee sent him a lazy little wave instead of actually saying when he got there. It wasn't a big deal when he showed up anyway.

Karkat just shrugged, trying to focus more on that last question then the unconscious form a few feet away from him. Unconscious. Still alive, John said they had to be or else they couldn’t eat. Maybe he could put it off a bit longer and just let this person go back to their life. It couldn’t have been that long since he last ate after all. He could do this, it wasn’t too late. He just had to tell John that he didn’t want to and he could put it off for just a little bit longer.

“Oh right, but Karkat you should probably eat soon before the guy bleeds out,” John said and Karkat couldn’t help the little squeak at that. Okay, apparently John had fucked him up enough that he was going to die no matter what happened. No going back now, fuck. Best to just. Get up. And go over there. Don’t want to let the death be a waste. John would just have to go out and kill someone else, and that was the last thing he wanted.

“You good with moving Karbro? Or you want us to bring it over to you?” Gamzee asked, knocking Karkat out of whatever sort a trance he’d managed to fall into and right fuck, he hadn’t gotten up yet and he wasn’t too sure how long he spent just sort of sitting there.

“I’m good,” Karkat managed to mumble, pushing himself to his feet. Alright, now he just needed to get over there and do whatever it is he did those last two times and it would be over with. If his fucking legs would decide to move already. Before he could quite get himself back under control Gamzee was over by the unconscious guy, dragging him over to where Karkat was stuck standing.

“Just say the word if any help’s needed brother,” Gamzee said, and all Karkat could do was nod the slightest bit. He didn’t want help with this, but he didn’t want this to be happening in the first place.

Karkat let himself drop back down to the ground like his body wanted to. He wasn't sure when his eyes had closed but he was thankful that they were so that he wouldn’t have to see what the person looked like up close. John mentioned bleeding out, so he had to be injured, and he didn’t know if John cared much about keeping shit clean. Probably not.

Keeping his eyes closed also helped with forcing himself to reach forward, even if it was closer to falling forward and he was shaking hard as fuck now. He only knew when he came in contact with the person when he started to feel that strange pulsing energy from the other times, making himself stay still. He wasn’t sure if or how he needed to control it, and he was too freaked out to try and figure it out, instead just letting the energy flow into him on its own until it slowly tapered out.

Once he was pretty sure it was done he pulled away, making the mistake of opening his eyes. They had a large gash in their neck, Karkat wasn’t even sure how they managed to live long enough for him to eat and fuck he was going to throw up. Only he couldn’t, because he didn’t have a fucking stomach anymore.

“Karkat? You okay?” John’s voice cut through the numb panic he was stuck in. He wanted to say yes, even though he wasn’t, or at least say it sarcastically, but he couldn’t get himself to say anything, just frozen in place. After a moment he managed to shake his head ‘no’ the slightest bit, not even sure if anyone would be able to tell.

He guessed they could though, because the next thing he knew he was being pulled up to his feet and carefully led away from the area. He tried to tell himself that he was just leaning into the gangly hand on his shoulder so that he wouldn’t fall over, even though he didn’t feel anywhere near as exhausted as he had a few minutes ago. He guessed the whole eating thing had worked. Hooray.

“It’s okay Karkat, you won’t have to do it again for a while now. It’ll get better, you did really well,” John was saying at him, but Karkat wasn’t paying too much attention, just trying to force himself to calm down or just stop being so freaked out.

It seemed pretty damn well like a lost cause, but he was still trying.

Chapter Text

Karkat wasn’t paying any attention to where John and Gamzee were leading him. He just let them tug him along wherever they pleased as he desperately tried not to think about what just happened. It was next to impossible not to though, and so it just left him stuck trying to feel numb when everything about him was newly energized and feeling altogether better than it had in weeks.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when they finally stopped and John and Gamzee let him sit down again. On some level he was sure it hadn’t been that long, only a couple minutes at most, but everything just seemed to go so slow.

Karkat curled up as soon as he hit the ground, hugging his knees to his chest and fuck he was pathetic. He tried to tell himself that it was a good thing that he was so freaked out, it meant he wasn’t some soulless monster.

He was though, only he was a soulless monster who couldn’t even manage to do the monster shit without freaking out and was going to get himself destroyed. It was only a matter of fucking time, and he couldn’t even pretend that it sounded all that horrible right now. Maybe it would be better that way. He’d already overstayed his time on earth after all, if things had gone like they should have he would have been dead and in the ground a while ago. Or well, even more dead then he already was.

“Shush now, you’re alright brother,” Gamzee said, and Karkat was suddenly unsure if either of them had been talking to him before that moment as well. He hadn’t been paying attention, they very well could have been. It wouldn’t surprise him if he was being shitty enough to completely ignore the people who were actively trying to help him through this.

Either way, Karkat forced himself to nod the slightest bit at that. It was way more difficult that it should be, just a simple nod of the head. All he wanted to do was curl further and further in on himself. Yeah sure, he was fine. Technically at least, he was better off than he was before. He doubted John would have been so adamant with him if he hadn’t needed to do it. He just needed to get past the reality of what had happened so he could try to forget about it until he inevitably had to do it again.

God, he had no idea how he would ever manage on his own.

“I’m okay,” Karkat was surprised that he’d managed to mumble after a bit longer, although he still couldn’t quite say how much so. Ten minutes? Twenty? Who the fuck knows. He hadn’t noticed when he had closed his eyes, but he took a slow, deep breath before opening them. Well, it was still dark out, so he couldn't have been freaking the fuck out for too long. It was possible that he’d just been lying there for hours and not realized.

John was sitting across from him, not too far away but not uncomfortably close either, which was nice. Karkat definitely felt like he could use a bit of space right now. Everything about him felt so twitchy and like he was just going to throw up, he didn’t have any other idea of how to describe it, besides maybe disgusting.

“You sure you’re okay?” John asked, his voice quiet like he was afraid if he spoke too loudly he’d freak out again. Karkat forced himself to nod, not quite able to get up the nerve to speak again. He didn’t feel okay in the slightest, but this was better than he was a few moments ago. Considering the fact he couldn’t even remember what he’d been doing, being aware of himself and some of his surroundings was a marked improvement.

“You’ll get a feel for it brother, just up and takes time is all,” Gamzee said, and Karkat had nearly forgotten about him again. Fucker was just so goddamn quiet when he wanted to be. The idea of ‘getting a feel for it’ brought the nauseous feeling Karkat had managed to fight down right back up again. He couldn’t even do anything about it, which was the worst part. Or maybe not the worst, but it was pretty bad.

“Yeah, okay,” Karkat muttered, shifting away from the two other spirits to lay down on his side. There was a wall close by that he could put his back to, and both it and the concrete ground were cool and helped just the slightest bit. “’m gonna sleep,” he added, squeezing his eyes shut tight in an attempt to block everything else out. It didn’t work very well, but it was all he could do.

“Alright, if that’s what you wanna do. Um, goodnight,” John said, concern still emanating from his voice. Karkat didn’t bother saying anything back, trying to force himself to sleep. It wasn’t exactly going well, the eating having simultaneously given him energy and freaking him out to no end. Even still, it was almost nice to just lay there and try to keep him mind as clear from any and all thoughts as he possibly could.

Karkat knew he hadn’t gotten any sleep when the light of the sun rising started to filter in through his closed eyes. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long afterwards that he finally managed to pass out.

He couldn’t do this.

He didn’t want to do this. He didn’t. He didn’t. He didn’t.

Any attempt to push down the panic keeping him locked in place failed. He just had to calm down. Don’t think about it. It was what he had to do, there was no other way around it just do it already!

He tried to force himself to move, but all he could do was stare down at the injured man shaking in fear below him. Or maybe he was shaking because he was weak? There was a whole lot of blood on and around him, coming from multiple wounds he had inflicted earlier. He wasn’t sure how long he spent frozen like that, but in the blink of an eye the man was scrambling up from where he sat broken and bleeding and started to run down the alley. He knew he was supposed to chase after him, but instead he stayed right where he was.

“John!” Vriska’s sharp angry voice broke him out of the spell he was in, head snapping towards where she had appeared. She was holding the man with what looked to be no effort at all as he struggled in her grasp. John wasn’t able to stop the aborted cry of horror when she reached up and swiftly snapped the man’s neck, letting him crumble to the ground.

“Why did you- We can’t- I-” John blurted out, not able to finish a single thought as she stomped towards him.

“What in the world were you doing!? You had the perfect opportunity and you let him just run away!” she snapped and John could feel himself shrinking down from her. He was pretty sure he was the one shaking now, but he couldn’t gather himself enough to stop.

“I don’t know, I’m sorry I just froze,” he tried to explain, his voice sounding strained and wavering. He knew it didn’t matter though, Vriska hated excuses. John tried to blink back tears that he hadn’t realized were there until that moment.

“You can’t just freeze during something like this! You’ll end up losing meals and getting yourself killed that way!” she yelled at him and John knew this. She told him every single time he messed up like this. He always messed up. It’d been months and he still couldn’t get it like Vriska told him to.

“I know, I know!” he insisted. He didn’t know what to do about it though. He couldn’t get himself to do it as effortlessly as Vriska could, not by a long shot. He felt his eyes trail down to where the man was dead at the end of the alley. “Why did you...? I could have still done it! You didn’t have to kill him for no reason!”

“The reason was to teach you a lesson!” Vriska snapped, John not able to keep himself from flinching back at her sharp tone. “I can’t keep spoon feeding you like this. You’re going to have to make your kills on your own, and that means actually on your own. Not with me there to hold your hand every time you get upset.”

John couldn’t do anything but nod. He knew she was right deep down, but that didn’t make it feel any less horrible. “I’m sorry, it’s just really hard, you know?” he mumbled, not able to meet her eyes. He knew that wasn’t what she wanted to hear though. To his surprise however Vriska didn’t seem to get angry. Instead she just sighed heavily, some of the rage from before seeming to melt away from her.

“Yeah, yeah I know. Listen, you’ll get it okay? I wouldn’t be wasting my time with you otherwise,” she said. It was much different from the way she usually acted when he screwed up like this, but that was the thing John had noticed about Vriska over the past few months. She was tough and unrelenting on him, but she was also encouraging and helped him through these things as best as she could. John attempted to smile at her, pretty sure it wasn’t too convincing. Even still, it was better than the shaking and staring at the ground and such.

It took another moment for John to remember that he’d dropped the illusion that kept him looking normal while fighting the man.

“Oh, shit,” he yelped, putting his focus back on his appearance and shaping it back to what he should look like. It was still a bit difficult for him, and he would end up with these blotchy red spots on his skin, but it was definitely better than the mangled mess he was if he left it alone.

“I don’t know how you can stand to look at me like that,” he said. It somehow never seemed to phase her in the time it took him to figure out shapeshifting, and even now when he’d drop the look she didn’t even flinch. On the other hand he would start to feel like he was going to either throw up or pass out if he looked at himself for more than a couple of seconds. Vriska just shrugged, not looking like it was even a factor for her.

“Don’t worry about it, let’s just go find you something else to eat,” she said, and John nodded, taking a quick glance back at the man before hurrying after her. He was not looking forward to going through this again, but he could do it. Just get it over with. He knew that it would be better if he didn’t hesitate.

He didn’t want anything else to go to waste.

Karkat felt himself wake up, confusion swirling in his head as he tried to figure out what the fuck just happened. Groggily he blinked his eyes and pushed himself so that he was sitting up. He didn’t feel as weak as he normally did, but he barely noticed that as he concentrated on the dream he must have just had.

It had to have been a dream after all. He’d just woken up, it didn’t make any other sense otherwise.

“Hey, are you feeling any better?” John asked, having noticed he was awake. Karkat was confused by the question for all of two seconds before he remembered what had happened before he fell asleep. Fuck. Right, well, at least his dream kind of made sense now. Maybe? It still didn’t make much sense, but at least the topic had been appropriate.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine,” Karkat forced himself to say, although now that the memory was back he didn’t feel fine in the slightest. He was almost certain he could keep himself from completely freaking the fuck out again if he just didn’t think about it. That was much easier said than done though.

Rubbing at his eyes, Karkat tried to think of something to distract himself with. He considered telling John about his dream, but that was one, still kind of the same topic, and two, he wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. Karkat knew that he said it wasn’t a big deal the first time, but he still doubted that John particularly liked having someone picking up random memories from him. If it was a memory. He supposed he couldn’t be completely sure, but it didn’t want to ask in case it was.

“Where’d Gamzee go?” he asked after a moment, remembering that the strange spirit had still been around when he lied down. He couldn’t much say for after that though, he hadn’t been paying the best attention.

“Oh, he disappeared some time after you fell asleep. Don’t worry about it, I don’t think Gamzee ever stays in one place for too long,” John said, and Karkat just nodded, not sure what else to say. He hadn’t been expecting Gamzee to stick around much anyway, so it wasn’t like this was even all that surprising. So much for thinking of a different topic.

“Was it hard for you at first?” Karkat didn’t know what possessed him to ask that. He just saw the answer to that if his dream was to be believed, and that wasn’t even what he wanted to talk about. He wanted to just forget it ever fucking happened and move on. At least he hasn’t actually mentioned the dream. He could still avoid that awkward conversation until a time when he was feeling less completely and utterly horrible.

“What? Yeah Karkat, of course it was. No one gets it right away, it’s okay, it gets easier.” John said, sounding surprised by the question at first, but switching to try and comfort Karkat without missing a beat. It didn’t work as well as John was probably hoping it would. He doesn’t want to get used to it. The idea that he’d be so okay with fucking murder in a few years was horrifying.

John didn’t seem to get that though, all saying ‘it gets easier’ like that was a good thing. “I’m not worried about it not getting easy,” Karkat snapped, regretting it as soon as the words left his mouth. He didn’t fucking want to talk about this. God why couldn’t he just stay quiet?

“What?” John asked, not seeming to understand what he meant at all. After a moment it looked like he had some sort of realization, and Karkat had to wonder just how fucked up someone had to be for it to take that long to realize someone might be just the slightest bit uncomfortable with all of this becoming normal.

He wondered if he would be like that in ten years, if he even managed to survive for that long. He didn't know if he wanted the chance to find out.

“Oh,” John muttered, and Karkat couldn’t help but roll his eyes because yeah, ‘oh’ was probably appropriate.

“Look, can we please just forget about this?” Karkat asked, just wanting to get off of this subject already. John quickly nodded, seeming to realize that he was uncomfortable with all of this.

“Yeah, sure thing Karkat, whatever you want,” he said. Karkat just shrugged at that, not sure what to do with it, because he didn’t actually know what he wanted. All he knew was what he didn’t want, but that seemed to be good enough for the time being.

Looking around a bit more, Karkat was actually able to take in their surroundings a bit. They were pretty closed in, and he wasn’t sure how he didn’t notice that before. Okay he knew how, he wasn’t noticing fucking anything while half panicked out of his skull, but still.

He was sitting against the wall of some building, a fence connecting to the corner of it and only going a few feet before turning and closing them off from whatever was on the other side. What was on the other side seemed to be a couple of trees lined up, from the branches overhead and the pines that littered the cement below them.

“Where are we exactly?” Karkat asked, glad to finally have something relatively normal to talk about. The last place he remembered being was underneath the overpass. He didn’t want to think about that though.

“Oh, we’re by a school. We’re not actually that far from where we were last night, you weren’t walking much,” John said, and Karkat just nodded, not sure what to say to that. He couldn’t even remember getting here, so he must have been pretty goddamn out of it. Even with the renewed energy he doubted he’d be running marathons just then.

“They used to keep chickens here,” John said out of the blue, knocking Karkat out of his thoughts. He couldn’t help but stare at him for a moment, but he supposed if he was trying to keep the conversation going that was good enough.

“Chickens?” he asked, because yeah. What fucking else was he supposed to say to that?

“Yeah, in that building you’re leaning against. I’m pretty sure it’s just some storage place now. I mean, there weren’t any when I was around, but my dad said there was when he was a kid,” John explained. Karkat supposed he could believe that? John was like, ten years older than he actually looked, so there being chickens around when his dad was a kid didn’t seem like too big of a stretch.

“You grew up around here?” Karkat asked. Even with the weird stolen dream memories, Karkat didn’t feel like he knew all that much about John. He didn’t know if it was considered rude or something to ask about his life before he became a spirit, but it seemed like it was a harmless enough topic. John had even brought it up a bit by mentioning his dad.

Karkat wondered in the back of his head if most people analyzed every little goddamn thing they said to someone to try and figure out if it was the right thing. Probably not.

“Huh?” John asked, seeming surprised by the question at first. That quickly fell away and he nodded. “Oh yeah, it’s a pretty nice town. When you ignore all the murder. And ghosts. And people murdering ghosts.”

“Lovely,” Karkat said, letting the sarcasm drip heavily from his voice. John just gave him a dumb wide smile and Karkat still didn’t feel all that good with everything that had just happened, but it was just the littlest bit better.

After a moment John’s smile went down just a bit, but he still looked pretty happy. “So uh, do you want to just stay here for tonight, or do you want to walk around a bit or what? Your choice,” he offered, and Karkat wasn’t too sure. He didn’t know what the fuck would end up setting him off after all of that. Staying here until he was sure he was okay was a good idea, but it might also be good to get up and moving around so that he could distract himself from his thoughts some.

“I don’t know, whatever you think is best I guess,” he said after a moment. He figured John would have a better idea about this shit since he’d been through it before and wasn’t the one who could tip into a breakdown at any moment. John seemed to think it over for a minute before speaking.

“Maybe we should move if you’re feeling up to it? It’s okay if you’re not, but it might be a good idea to put a little more distance between us,” he said. He thankfully didn’t mention what it was they needed to get distance from, but it wasn’t like Karkat didn’t know. Still, it was nice to not have to name it. Karkat nodded, pushing himself to his feet.

“Yeah, I’m fine with that,” he said. John smiled and sprung up as well, leading them down the small alley that opened up to a mostly empty parking lot. It was pretty late at night though, and if this was a school it made sense that there wouldn’t be many people around at this time of night.

They didn’t speak much, and Karkat was pretty sure John was just trying to give him some more time to calm down or something. He’d like to say that he didn’t need it, but that was a blatant fucking lie. He was still pretty goddamn shaken if he thought about it, and it was still very goddamn hard not to think about it. Still, the quiet was appreciated, as was the seemingly directionless wandering. Karkat didn’t care where they were going right now, as long as it was away.

“So, I was thinking,” John spoke up after a while, startling Karkat the slightest bit.

“Yeah?” he asked, trying to calm back down after the little jump he gave at the sudden voice.

“Okay, so I was thinking about how before we ran into Vriska and um, got caught up in her stuff, we were heading to Jade’s place,” John started to explain. Karkat nodded, not too sure where he was going to with.

“And?”

“Well, and I was wondering if you still wanted to do that? Go stay with Jade for a while I mean. It’s cool if you don’t want to be around anybody else right now, but I just thought it might be a good idea. If the hunters are mad, they would think twice about doing anything if all three of us were together, and it might be a good distraction for you,” John said. Karkat stopped walking, thinking it over.

It would probably be a good idea like John said safety wise, especially since he just… yeah. Karkat wasn’t too sure on how much of a distraction it would actually be, but it was better than nothing.

“Yeah okay, we can do that,” he said at last. A large smile once again broke out over John’s face, and Karkat supposed it was good that at least one of them could be excited about this. He didn’t have anything against Jade, he barely knew her so far. He just wasn’t feeling in the most sociable mood right now, and considering how he was normally it didn’t get much less sociable than that.

“Awesome! If we head over there now we should be able to make it before the sun comes up,” John said. Karkat just nodded at that, letting John lead the way once again.

It turns out John wasn’t lying about having to head over right at that moment to make sure they could get there before the sun came up. Karkat figured he didn’t exactly walk the fastest, but that didn’t change the fact that she apparently stayed all the way on the other side of town, maybe even a little further. Karkat wasn’t sure where exactly the town ended. It wasn’t like he was from here after all.

The sky was just starting to turn pink when John said they were almost there. Thankfully he meant that, as the next thing Karkat knew they were turning a corner and coming across what looked like an old rundown RV. It was rusted and covered in vines and didn’t look like it had moved an inch in no less than five or ten years, possibly much longer. It definitely looked like the kind of place a ghost would live in, at least.

“Is this it?” Karkat asked, and to his relief John nodded, starting towards the RV.

“Yep, sure is. Hey Jade? Are you home?” John answered before calling into the old RV. Karkat supposed he should have expected for the other spirit to just appear in front of them instead of actually walking through a door or shit like a normal person. It didn’t look like the door had been opened in years either actually. Of course he didn’t exactly that though, so he was still surprised when it happened.

He was also surprised when Jade slapped John upside the head.

“Hey! What was that for?” John asked.

“For storming a hunter base and being an idiot!” she snapped, and Karkat had to admit she had a point. John laughed nervously at that.

“Oh yeah, that. Heh, word travels fast I guess?” he said, and Karkat had to roll his eyes at his pathetic attempt to play it off. Thankfully it didn’t seem like Jade was actually genuinely pissed off at him.

“It sure does,” she agreed. She seemed to notice that Karkat was there, or just took that moment to acknowledge him. “Hey Karkat, sorry for whatever disaster this knucklehead went and dragged you into,” she said. He just shrugged, since that hadn’t even been the thing on his mind lately.

“It’s fine, I just figured all this bullshit was normal for ghosts,” he said.

“So, what brings you both here?” Jade asked.

“Oh, we were wondering if maybe we could stay here for a little while? Karkat’s still getting used to a lot of things about being a spirit and with, um, everything that happened with the hunters, I thought it might be a good idea to just have a place to rest for a little bit,” John explained. Karkat supposed that was a nicer way to put it all than ‘they just helped piss off the people actively trying to destroy them and Karkat can’t stop freaking out over having to kill to survive.’

“Of course you both can stay! John, you know you’re always welcome here, and you too Karkat,” Jade said. Karkat nodded, even though he was sure she was just saying that to be nice.

“Thanks Jade!” John said happily. “Well, it’s getting pretty bright out, want to head inside?” he asked Karkat. He wasn’t too sure how they planned to do that at first, but the solution to not opening the door dawned on him. Ugh, this was not what he wanted to have to do right now, but it didn’t seem like there was any other choice.

“Yeah sure, if you all want to I guess,” he answered. John gave him a reassuring smile before grabbing his arm, and thankfully the flash of breathlessness was rather quick. Karkat supposed they had only teleported a pretty short distance after all, so it made sense. Jade appeared a few feet away from them after another second, holding her arms out to gesture around her.

“Well, this is it! Make yourself at home!” she head, and Karkat reluctantly nodded, taking a look at the small space. It was definitely better than the outside, looking like a pretty standard RV. Or at least, what Karkat imagined one would look like, he’d never actually been in one before. Still, it could definitely be worse, and it wasn’t even all that dirty or anything, just kind of cluttered. It’d been a long as fuck time since they’d stayed in a place that even resembled inside though, so Karkat wasn’t complaining.

“Thanks Jade! I owe you big time,” John said. Karkat walked over to sit in the little couch booth thing, trying not to crash into a heap too dramatically to draw any attention.

“Yeah, thanks,” he muttered as well. Maybe John was right. Maybe a couple of days here would be enough to calm him down and get his mind off of everything that happened. All he could do was hope.

--- 

There was nothing for Dave to do but wait until Rose got home. He didn’t particularly want to stay in Dirk’s room, but there was no way he was letting the bastard out of his sight until he could be sure that he wasn’t going to run to mom and bro first fucking chance he got. He was not about to just slump around until Rose felt like making her merry way home at her own leisure though either.

“Dude, I’m gonna text Rose to get back here, okay? I’m not waiting around for her all night,” Dave said. Dirk just shrugged, seeming to have gotten his need to yell at him out of his system and was trying to get back to his dumb aloof self.

TG: yo rose code fucking red get back home already
TG: dirk knows everything
TG: or not everything
TG: didnt tell him about your interrogation shenanigans
TG: youre welcome btw for that
TT: Wait, what?
TT: Why on earth did you tell Dirk?
TG: i fucking didnt thats why
TG: dude put goddamn tape recorders in all of the rooms
TT: I am going to kill him.
TG: okay but first we gotta get him to not kill us
TG: so hurry the fuck up and come home already
TT: I’ll be there as soon as I can.

“She’s gonna be on her way soon,” Dave said, not bothering to look up at the other boy. “Unless of course, you bugged my phone and already knew that,” he added, letting his disdain with the idea show in his voice.

“The last thing you want to do is give me any ideas,” Dirk answered, and Dave was pretty sure the only joke about that was that he’d already thought of that. Even still, he liked to think that Dirk had some sense of personal privacy. Maybe not after all this, but at the very least that he hadn’t bugged anything besides the rooms yet.

It wasn’t much longer before they both heard the front door open and close again. Dirk didn’t bother to go and pin Rose to the goddamn wall and drag her up by the arm, but that might have been a good thing. If he was cooling down maybe they could actually convince him to keep this a secret. It didn’t seem that likely, but it was worth a shot.

“So, it’s come to my attention that you had happened to listen in on a private conversation between Dave and myself?” Rose asked the second the door was shut behind her. Oh yeah, she was pissed. Dirk and Rose didn’t tend to get in arguments often, but when they did it was fucking bad. If Dave didn’t feel like he had to be here, he would have tried to think of an excuse to leave.

“A private conversation? That’s what we’re calling it? It just sounded like a couple of idiotic teenagers making some huge fucking mistakes to me,” Dirk said.

“I’ll admit, it was not exactly how I would have handled things,” Rose started. Dave quickly sat up from where he’d laid back down on the bed to let them both tear into each other.

“Whoa Rose, no throwing me under the bus here!” he objected.

“But! I don’t believe it was a complete mistake. Dave managed to get more information than any of us had to begin with, and returned unharmed,” she finished, Dave easing up at that. He would have been pretty damn annoyed if she went and thrown him to the wolves after he made sure to keep the shit she had done secret.

“Useless, unverifiable information. There’s no fucking way we can trust any of it, so it doesn’t count,” Dirk said, not sounding like he was going to budge on his stance at all. Dave figured he had a point, but something was telling him that Redglare was telling the truth. He had a feeling that saying that would not go over well with either Rose or Dirk though. It didn’t even sound smart to him, so yeah he was going to just keep that one to himself.

“It’s not unverifiable. I am sure there are ways,” Rose argued.

“Even if it’s all true what the fuck would it matter to us? None of that shit was practical, it’s not going to help but fight them or defend ourselves or anything. Rose I know you’re smarter than this shit, you fucking know it ain’t that complicated,” Dirk insisted.

“On the contrary, I do not believe that all of this is as simple as we’ve been led to believe,” Rose said. When they got down to it that was the base of all this, wasn’t it? Finding out that they weren’t always these fucking monsters put a wrench in the clean cut picture that had been set out for them before. Dave was pretty sure it still led to the same end result, but there was that doubt now. Just how much shit did they not understand? There was a part of Dave that didn’t even want to know the answer to that question.

“You’re both being ridiculous,” Dirk said, actually starting to look visibly frustrated with them.

“Come now, you’re usually so much better at countering than that,” Rose said. Dave wasn’t too sure if taunting was the best idea right now, but it was true.

“Okay, maybe it is more complicated than just pointing your sword at the nearest fucking ghost and going to town, but there’s no way this can be a surprise to you? Shit is never that goddamn simple. None of that changes the facts that Dave could have gotten himself killed, and you’re both trying to deal with shit that is too fucking dangerous to face on your own. Can you seriously tell me that after what happened to Aradia, you think this going it alone shit is going to cut it?” Dirk snapped.

Dave could feel his stomach drop at that last question, and despite not wanting to he had to admit that Dirk had a point. This was different though, he hadn’t gone with the intention to fight Redglare.

That didn’t mean she couldn’t have started one or just straight up killed him if she wanted to. She hadn’t though. Hell, he found out something that he was pretty damn sure she did not want him to know, but she hadn’t even seemed to consider attacking him.

Still, that wasn’t the kind of shit he could argue on. That was edging too close to sounding like he fucking trusted them, which wasn’t the case at all. It was just that she would have killed him by now if she wanted to.

“We know things have been strained with everything that’s been happening, but we’re not trying to make it any worse. This might surprise you, but neither of us would like to die, and we don’t particularly enjoy going it alone, as you said,” Rose told him, still sounding confident. Dave wasn’t sure how she did it, but this is why she was the one to have a chance to change Dirk’s mind and not him.

“Well, you fucking fooled me with all this goddamn sneaking around bullshit,” Dirk countered, not seeming like he was going to give on any of this at all. Dave still wanted to hold out some hope that they could get him to change his mind on telling mom and bro, but it wasn't any more likely than before yet.

“It’s not that we wanted to, it just felt like the only option at the time. Can you really say that you would have reacted well to any of this if we came up and told you straight out?” Rose asked. Dirk looked like he was about to argue with her for a moment before actually thinking the question over.

“If something is so fucking bad that you can’t tell us you shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” he says at last.

“You have a point. Can we both agree that things were not handled as well as they could have been from anyone’s end?” Rose said.

“I agree,” Dave cut in, even though he knew that at this point his opinion was pretty damn irrelevant.

“I could argue a few points,” Dirk said, still not sounding happy with this. Dave wasn’t expecting anything much better though. It was generous that he wasn’t outright fighting the entire statement. Sure, Dave didn’t know how one could argue too well for the use of spy equipment, but he was sure Dirk would try his damnedest to find a way.

“Most likely yes, but if you could please try to be understanding here,” Rose said.

“I’m sorry, are the spirits going to be understanding?” Dirk asked.

“In my experience, yeah, for the most part,” Dave spoke up. The other two both turned towards him, matching looks of skepticism and exasperation on their faces. “It was a joke, holy shit,” he rectified, because yeah no he wasn’t that dumb. Sure the spirits had been much more tolerant on keeping him alive for the most part, but that was only Redglare and probably the Trainer. He wouldn’t exactly call them understanding for that either.

“Anyway,” Rose said, turning back away from Dave and towards Dirk again. “I can understand why you would want to tell our guardians, but I have to ask you to please keep this from them,” she finished, finally getting to the main point of all of this.

“Fuck no,” Dirk said, and yeah Dave expected that. He was pretty sure Rose did too, because she didn’t seem phased in the slightest.

“Dirk, just think about this,” she started, but he quickly cut her off.

“I’m pretty damn sure I’m the only one actually thinking here. This isn’t something you can just brush off, you’ve already put yourselves in way more fucking danger than you should have. How the fuck am I supposed to know you both won’t continue pilling shit like this again? At least if you get in trouble for this it might get through your thick skulls,” Dirk said.

“Dude, I’m not going to go anywhere near anymore spirits! When we’re not hunting them, but you know what I mean. It’s not like I was doing it for fun man, you know I’m not that dumb,” Dave insisted. He meant it too, he wasn’t fucking doing this shit because he liked it. Sure, there were a few things he did want to look into more, but he could do that without going to see Redglare again.

Dirk took a long moment just staring at him in silence, from what Dave could tell trying to see if he was actually telling the truth or not. Finally, he seemed to ease up just the slightest bit. It wasn’t enough to get Dave to think he was actually going to change his mind, but it was a start.

“There’s still no reason to keep this from them,” he said, and yeah, it was definitely a start.

“There’s no reason to tell them either,” Rose countered. Dirk rolled his eyes at that, but hey, Dave thought she had a point.

“Yes, there is. They need to know this kind of shit, with what a fucking mess everything is right now. We don’t know what’s going to set more spirits off, so you,” he shot a glare at Dave at that, “going and fucking around with them shouldn’t just be swept under the rug,” he finished.

“You said yourself though that the information Dave found wasn’t of any use,” Rose argued. “Dirk, you know they won’t take this well if they found out. I think it’s best not to bring up these sorts of unnecessary stressors right now.”

Dirk went quiet once again, and Dave waited to see what he would say. He didn’t want to try to speak up now and fuck up everything when they finally seemed to maybe be getting him on their side.

“We need to tell them eventually,” he finally said, and this was going a lot better than Dave had thought it would. He didn’t think they would actually be able to get through to him.

“And we will. I plan to have a long conversation with them about all of this in due time, don't worry. I’d like to wait until at least we come to a permanent decision on Aradia’s condition and at least start some of the reconstruction on the base however,” Rose said, Dirk reluctantly nodding.

“Alright, I suppose that’s fair,” he said, and Dave wasn’t about to keep himself from letting out a long sigh of relief. “There’s just one condition.”

“Ugh!” Dave groaned out. He knew he shouldn’t have been that relieved yet. There was always a fucking catch. Dirk rolled his eyes at him, like he hadn’t given them a nice shining light of hope only to black it out just as quickly.

“Would you quit your whining dude? We’re just not keeping this from Roxy,” Dirk said, and both Dave and Rose relaxed at that.

“Oh, yeah okay then, that works,” Dave said. Sure the original plan had been to just keep all of this between him and Rose, but Roxy finding out was nowhere near worst case scenario. Hell, Dirk knowing was worse, and that ship had already long sailed. It definitely wasn’t something worth fighting about, especially since there was just no way for them to keep Dirk from telling her.

“So, we’re in agreement then?” Rose asked, and Dirk looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding.

“As long as you two stop with the all the goddamn sneaking around, yes,” he said.

“Also, I believe you will be removing all recording devices from our house,” Rose told him, and yeah, Dave was not comfortable with that still being a thing. Dirk seemed annoyed that it was brought up, like they would just forget about them if he didn’t mention them. Still, he didn’t argue with them on it, despite the grumbling response he gave.

The next two hours were spent following Dirk around and checking over all the rooms to make sure he really did remove all recording devices. Dave wouldn’t have trusted that he did if Rose hadn’t been there to double triple quadruple check every room, before finally declaring it clean.

Filling Roxy in afterwards had gone about as smoothly as it could have. Dave was starting to notice a bit of a pattern with every person he told. First they couldn’t believe it, then they were a combination of worried and angry, then they thought he was an idiot before finally accepting that he was still fine while still probably thinking he was an idiot.

After that was done though, all four of them pretty much had a basic idea of everything that had happened. Roxy and Dirk didn’t know about some of the things Rose had done sure, and no one but him knew about the whole Sollux situation. It was still a hell of a lot more than anything they knew before.

The next few days ended up passing by in a whirlwind of chaos as everyone tried to figure out what the fuck was going on with the base and the Spider attack. They’d managed to clear out all the debris, including gathering most of the scattered paperwork and such into a pile for the smart people (Bro and Mom and Dirk and Sollux) to sort through.

The actual fixing of doors and walls and such took a bit longer. While not everyone was needed around for that, Dave found himself constantly being recruited to help hold doors or pieces of drywall in place for hours on end.

Everyone was still talking about what the fuck all of this meant though, besides just the practical work of fixing the base. Shit like this didn’t happen often, and combined with what had happened to Aradia, it was just. No one was certain about what was happening anymore.

The first day that Dave did not have to go help with cleaning or building duty on the base he could not be more relieved. Sure, he’d been feeling all useless and shit back when they weren’t letting him do anything, but being used for menial labor was not exactly an upgrade.

When his phone buzzed letting him know there was an incoming text, Dave considered ignoring it for a moment. He was having a pretty great time lying in his bed, not covered in sawdust and bullshit. His curiosity would always get the better of him though, and he lazily reached over to see who it was.

TT: Are you going to be busy for the next few days?
TG: im gonna say yes because youre gonna make me do something arent you
TT: Nonsense Dave, I would never make you do anything.
TT: I would just like to ask you for a small favor.
TG: of course you would whats it this time
TG: need me to do any grave robbing
TG: i dont think dirk would like that
TT: I am not asking you to do any grave robbing.
TT: I have been doing some research about some of the spirits you looked into recently.
TG: oh
TG: find anything interesting
TG: and is dirk going to yell at me
TT: He can’t yell about anything he doesn’t know about.
TG: goddamn it
TT: I’m joking, mostly at least. I promise you it is not actually that much of a big deal.
TG: alright then lay it on me
TT: I’ve been looking into The Trickster. It seems that everything you found out about him holds up.
TG: oh cool
TG: so what you need me to do then
TT: I had found some information about his family. His father is still alive and lives in the area, I was wondering if you could meet with him and ask him a few question.
TG: you want me to meet up with some random dude and ask him about his dead kid
TG: who is now a mass murderer
TT: Not as bluntly as that, but yes.
TG: are you insane
TT: It’s honestly not going to be as strange as it sounds.
TT: One, it’s been ten years since the Trickster died, and two, he seems to help out in anti-bullying programs and speaks about what happened to raise awareness and such.
TT: From everything I can find, he seems like a kind man who would be more than willing to talk to a curious teenager.
TG: okay that does make it sound less majorly fucking weird
TG: you sure this is a good idea though
TG: what would i even ask him
TT: Well, you should stick mainly to the topic of the bullying, how long it went on for, if there was anything that went on near the end, as well as about the circumstances of his death, at least at first.
TT: If you could also ask what he was like in general though, his personality, what he liked, if there was anything odd or unusual. You could tie that last one in by asking if there was something that set him apart for bullying.
TG: youve really thought this through havent you
TT: Most of this is just off of the top of my head.
TG: of course it is
TG: alright ill talk to this guy
TG: you know where i can find him at a place thats not totally creepy like his house
TT: There is an anti-bullying event going on at the high school on seventh street tomorrow. He should be there.
TT: I’ll send you a photo I found online so that you know who to look for.
TG: the things i do for you

Dave was not sure about this at all. They’d told Dirk they wouldn’t be sneaking around doing weird spirit shit anymore. He guessed this didn’t count though maybe? He wasn’t talking to a spirit after all, just some guy who was technically the father of a spirit.

Rose sent him the time of the event and the photo like she said she would. Thankfully it wasn’t during school so he didn’t have to sneak in or some shit, but it was fucking summer so Dave didn’t know what he expected. It was a little weird that it was happening at this time of year, but it looked like it was more of a support event and stuff.

It was much easier getting out the next day than it should have been with everyone knowing his track record now. With several days of almost normalcy though, Dave supposed people were starting to relax and getting wrapped up in trying to fix all the problems. Instead of making sure to keep an eye on him and that he was still in the house. Hey, he wasn’t complaining, it worked out for him after all.

Dave made sure not to get to the event super early or anything like that to make him stand out. It didn’t seem to be super busy or anything though, and while a majority of the messages didn’t seem to be anything new, it was all nice enough. There were a couple of speakers, and Dave actually tried to pay attention to them, even though they weren’t the guy he was looking for.

It took a little while to find him, Dave was almost worried that he’d miss the guy and have to come back to Rose empty handed. It was nearly the end of the event when he finally caught sight of him, talking to someone at one of the booths.

Alright then, now or never. Hopefully the dude didn’t think he was too weird or prying. Rose had better be right about him talking to people about this or else this would be awkward as shit.

“Uh, hey, excuse me?” Dave said, managing to catch the man’s attention with relative ease. The guy politely excused himself from the conversation he was in to turn towards Dave.

“Yes, can I help you with anything?” he asked, and he seemed like a nice enough dude for sure. At least Rose was right about that so far.

“Are you Mr. Egbert?” Dave asked, figuring that was the best place to start. It’d be pretty bad if he just started talking and it turned out he got the wrong guy. He nodded though, so it looked like he was right on that front.

“Oh, okay cool. So um, let’s see here. I heard about what happened to your kid, which majorly sucks by the way. That’s probably an understatement though, but yeah just sorry about that. Anyway, I was wondering if maybe you were cool talking about it? Just like, maybe why he ended up getting singled out or how it managed to get to that point and things like that? It’s totally fine if you’re not though, no problem man,” Dave rambled. He was pretty damn sure he could have kept talking if he hadn’t forced himself to stop. Dave could feel Mr. Egbert looking him over carefully, his expression seeming to soften even more than it already was after a moment.

“I’d be more than happy to talk to you about John,” he said, and there was something so fucking weird about hearing someone refer to the trickster as something as simple as John. “Unfortunately, I have to be at work in twenty minutes and need to run. If it’s alright with your parents, we could talk this weekend.”

Dave nodded, setting up to meet with the guy Sunday at one o’clock at the mall. Mr. Egbert told him that he could bring a friend or his parents or something if he wasn’t comfortable meeting alone, but Dave wasn’t worried. He really did seem like a decent man, and they were meeting in a public enough place. It wasn’t exactly like Dave couldn’t defend himself either.

With that done with, he sent Rose a quick text explaining what happened before heading home. He still didn’t know what use she would even find with all this information she wanted, but it couldn’t hurt to have it either way.

It felt like they had known so little for so long, and the way that was beginning to change was certainly an appreciated change of pace.

Chapter Text

Dave walked back to the house once Mr. Egbert left, hoping to get back before anyone noticed he’d left. Thankfully that seemed to be the case, what with everyone else busy today. Once he was in his room, he sent Rose a couple of texts telling her how the whole meeting had gone down. Just letting her know that he didn’t get a chance to talk with the guy but made plans to see him this weekend.

Rose said that was a good start and not much else, and he figured she was probably busy with something right or another. Dave wondered what was going down at the base right now. They had managed to do most of the construction work of rebuilding the place. All that was left was reorganizing the mission forms and double checking that they input all of them onto the online files.

There was still Aradia’s situation to deal with, but Dave wasn’t sure what else they could try at this point. Sure, he didn’t have a very good idea about what they had done already, but he knew that it’d been long enough that anything they could try, Mom and Bro would have attempted by now.

As long as they weren’t giving up though, Dave supposed it didn’t matter. They'd find something new to test.

There was still a few more days before he had to go see Mr. Egbert, Dave figured it wouldn’t hurt to decide exactly what he was going to ask him and shit. He didn’t need to do that now though. He had more than enough time to figure it out. Hell, he already had a pretty good idea, since he was hoping to get to talk to the dude today. Sort of, more of just a rough plan, but it was enough to work with.

So, there was not much left for him to do. Like always. He swore if he wasn’t getting into wacky ill-advised misadventures with spirits, he was bored out of his skull. Still, probably a better option than said misadventures, but it didn’t make it any more fun.

Sending Rose another text, he asked if they needed him to come in for anything, because there was nothing to do here and whenever he had nothing to do bad things happened. Dave could just about fucking feel her rolling her eyes from where he was. Still, she said that he could come in if he wanted, she was sure they could find something for him to do.

Dave wasn’t too sure how much he liked the sound of that, but he decided to go none the less.

The front of the base still looked patched up, it clear just which parts were new and which were the old structure. They’d need to paint that sometime. Maybe he could do that. He was tired as fuck of construction bullshit, but it was better than being the gofer for whatever weird witch ingredients Rose uses for her freaky spells and potions.

Heading inside, he was slightly surprised to see Eridan lounging in what was recovered of the front room. The sofa had ended up mangled beyond repair in the attack and no one had been able to go out and get a new one yet. Instead they just had one of the old chairs, with the cushions from another left, and a couple of folding chairs someone dug up from somewhere.

“Hey man, what are you doing here?” Dave asked, sitting down in one of the fold out chairs.

“Being bored outta my fuckin mind, what’s it look like to you?” Eridan asked, putting away the phone he’d been looking through before to turn his attention to Dave. “I don’t get what the holdup is! Those fuckin beasts have been nothing but trouble, and it’s only gettin worse if you ask me. It ain’t like all of us are in comas, why do we gotta be sitting here on our asses?” he snapped. Dave would say it was sudden, but he was pretty sure Eridan had been thinking on this for a while now from the way he spoke.

Dave shrugged, a frown on his face because honestly, he had a point. “I don’t know man, I guess they’re just worried or some shit,” he said. The other boy rolled his eyes dramatically at that.

“Worried about what? It isn’t as if they weren’t trying to kill us before,” he said.

“Okay, yeah that’s definitely true,” Dave conceded. Eridan nodded, looking even more confident with someone agreeing with him.

“Exactly! Look, I’m not askin to go after fuckin Spider and Redglare and shit. I ain’t an idiot, but fucking hell it’s torture sitting around here playing construction worker while those monsters are off doing whatever they please,” he said.

“Hey, I feel ya man, but we gotta wait until they say it’s okay to go out. I’m pretty sure they’d be pissed if even more of us go off doing bullshit and getting hurt,” Dave tried to reason with him. He knew for a fact that if he personally did any more shit they would fucking have his head. He didn't need to fill Eridan in on all those details though.

“Well, I’m not gonna last much longer before I say something. I didn’t join this fucking group to sit on my ass all day,” Eridan said.

“Just don’t go fucking making another big issue out of all this, that’s the last thing we need right now,” Dave told him. Everything was only just now starting to settle down back into what could almost be considered normal again. he didn’t want to have that messed up. Maybe in a few days or so, Mom and Bro would let them start hunting again. Or at least, let the people who weren’t any help around here out so they could actually do shit.

Eridan was right after all, this sitting around doing fucking nothing was useless. Sure, Eridan could play at wizard, but they obviously weren’t letting him help with Aradia. Him, Nepeta and Equius didn’t know shit about magic or running the actual business, they weren’t any use either except to hunt.

At least let them go after the targets they could get. Keep wearing the Trickster down until they could finally get him. Knock that new spirit off the map before it managed any more harm than it already had. Trickster and the new spirit were both linked to the attack on the base anyway. It wasn’t like they weren’t justified it focusing their attention on them. Just something to feel like they had didn’t have any real say in what was happening.

Eridan huffed, leaning back in his chair and pulling his phone back out. “So, what exactly are you doing here?” he asked, and Dave shrugged.

“I guess the same as you? Bored as shit and asked Rose if they needed anything getting done. She said she could find something for me to do, should probably go see if she’s in her office or something. Or like, at least let her know I got here,” he said. Eridan didn’t seem all that interested in what he was saying anymore, starting to scroll through something on his phone again as he nodded.

“Yeah, yeah, go see your witchy twin,” he said. Dave figured that was actually the best course of action here, standing up out of the fold out chair and heading back to where Rose’s office was. Walking down the hallway, it was certainly looking a lot better than it had the night they were attacked. They had managed to replace all the doors that got torn off their hinges, as well as patched up the hole leading to Sollux’s office.

Knocking on the door, Dave waited until she actually gave him an okay before coming in. He didn’t mind barging in at home or into Dirk’s office, but there was a real chance that she was working on something that could blow his head off if he disturbed her at the wrong time. Or at least that’s what he imagined the magic bullshit could be like.

Rose barely glanced up at him as he stepped inside, concentrating on some weird black liquid in some glass vat on her desk. Yeah, he didn’t want to know at all.

“Hello, could you pass me that?” she said, pointing at what looked to be a jar of ink or something on a shelf.

“Sure thing,” Dave said, grabbing the item and putting it down within reach of her. Rose quickly picked it up and placed a few drops of the substance into her concoction. It didn’t look like it did anything from Dave’s point of view, but he knew jack all about this kind of stuff.

“So, did you just tell me to come over so I could fetch random magical artifacts for you, or was there some reason for this?” Dave asked. He knew that technically he’d asked if he should come over, but still.

“You said you won’t be able to speak to Mr. Egbert until this weekend, correct? Grab that for me?” Rose asked, switching right afterwards to point to a packet of some sort of dried herbs from the look of it.

“Yeah, dude had to head to work or something by the time I found him, here ya go,” he told her, handing over the packet. She put just a few pitches of the dried leaves in it, swishing the contents around, and it seemed like there was more of the stuff in the bottle than there’d been a few moments ago.

“That’s fine, I’ll make sure that you’re free this weekend so that no one bothers you when you go see him,” Rose said. Yeah, that wasn’t something Dave had thought about. He knew that Dirk would be fucking livid if he found out they were looking into more shit by themselves. That should have been a sign that this might not be something they should do, but when Rose got determined like this there was no stopping her. Dave supposed he was guilty here too, but he was just curious about what was actually going on with all this.

“Alright, sounds good. So, do I even want to know what the fuck that shit is? I don’t, do I?” Dave asked, pointing to the vial. Rose had put it back down now and was scribbling down a few notes from the look of it.

“I’m trying to find an alternative to the void shields,” she said simply, and oh okay, that actually made sense.

“Is there a reason it looks like liquid nightmares?” he asked. Rose rolled her eyes at the question, grabbing something else she already had on the desk that Dave couldn’t identify and adding it to the mixture.

“Eldritch magic does tend to have that aesthetic, yes,” she said. Dave couldn’t help the grimace that crossed his face at her words. Some fucking how Rose noticed, despite the fact that she didn’t seem to be looking at him at all. “Oh please Dave, it’s not that bad.”

“Anything with fucking ‘eldritch’ as an adjective doesn’t get to be called ‘not that bad’ okay?” he argued.

“I suppose I could concede that much,” she said. Dave rolled his eyes, making a mental note to keep a clear distance from the weird black goop. This was exactly the kind of shit he didn’t want to deal with.

“So, anything else ya wanna talk about?” he asked. Rose seemed to think for a few moments before finally answering.

“Nothing particularly pressing right now I’m afraid. You could always go out to the front room, I believe Eridan is mingling about out there,” she suggested.

“Yeah he is, already talked to the guy. He’s just all annoyed that we’re not doing jack shit recently. I mean, I know we’re doing shit, but like, there’s nothing for us non-magic folk to do,” Dave told her. Rose nodded thoughtfully, and Dave was pretty sure that Eridan had bombarded her with the same complaints when she had come in today. That was probably how she knew he was even out there.

“I don’t think I need to tell you that I haven’t been completely agreeing with how things have been run around here, but I do think that holding off and assessing just what is going on is the best course of action for now,” she said. Dave nodded in agreement.

“Yeah no I get you, I’m cool with the information gathering shit for now. Eridan said he’s gonna start complaining if shit doesn’t start happening soon, but I wouldn’t worry about him too much,” he told her.

“I’ll talk to him later just in case. Or I’ll have Roxy do it,” Rose said. Dave figured that was a safe plan. He didn’t think Eridan would do anything stupid, or at least, nothing stupider than what he’d done so far, but it was still better to be safe than sorry.

He didn’t think Aradia would do anything either after all, and god damn had he been wrong about that one.

Dave spent a bit longer in Rose’s office before heading back out to the front room. Eridan was still out there, still looking as grumpy as ever. He wasn’t quite annoyed with everything enough to not be able to spend a few hours killing time and talking about bullshit though, so that was how Dave spent the rest of his day for the most part.

The next few days continued to go by without incident. He did end up getting recruited to paint up the front of the building, which was annoying but still something to do. It didn’t seem like Eridan had went and complained to anyone yet, so maybe Rose or Roxy actually did manage to have a talk with him. The dude was stubborn as fuck, but it wasn’t completely impossible to get through to him. As much as he complained about Rose and Roxy, Dave was pretty sure he respected them in a way.

It seemed to take for fucking ever to get to the weekend, and when it finally did, Dave nearly forgot that he had something to do then. Thankfully Rose sent him a text a couple hours before he actually had to go meet up with the Trickster’s dad. The dude seemed like a nice guy, he would’ve felt kind of like an ass if he just left him hanging.

Rose had kept up her word that everyone would be busy doing their own thing to notice if he stepped out of the house for a few hours. Heading to the mall, Dave managed to keep himself from getting there too late.

Mr. Egbert was already there, but he seemed like the kind of dude who showed up at least ten minutes early to everything. As Dave walked up to where he was sitting at a small table, he tried to think of exactly what to say to him. Yeah, he’d had more than enough time to figure this all out, but he’d kind of put it off and then he forgot. So now here he was, pretty much just flying by the seat of his pants.

“Hello there, you didn’t have any trouble finding your way, did you?” Mr. Egbert asked, standing up and holding out his hand for Dave to shake. Looking at him up close without all the distractions around from before, he looked a bit older than Mom or Bro. That made sense, if the Trickster had been 17 when he died like ten years ago.

“Nah, it was easy enough to find,” Dave said as he sat down. He figured he should say something else, but he wasn’t sure how to start off. ‘Alright now, about your dead kid.’ Yeah, no please.

“So, you said you wanted to talk about John?” he asked, and okay, it was better if he was the one to start off like that instead.

“Uh yeah, I mean if that’s okay with you. There was just this thing at my school a while ago and they had mentioned it and if it’s not a bother or anything I was just wondering about some things,” Dave lied, hoping it was believable enough. The truth wasn’t all that believable though, so he doubted that would have been much better. Actually, he was pretty sure it would have been much worse.

Mr. Egbert didn’t seem suspicious or anything though, nodding calmly. “I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. Would you like to grab something to eat first?” he asked, gesturing around them since they were in a food court.

“Sure, why not,” Dave said, and thankfully it wasn’t too busy being between rushes, and it didn’t take long for him to grab a cheap burger and fries before heading back to the table. Mr. Egbert somehow managed to find a place in this grease factory that sold salad, because that was what he had in front of him.

“So, uh, where to start here,” Dave said once he sat down, not sure what would be an appropriate thing to begin with. They were talking about the guy’s son after all, and sure he seemed perfectly find with the subject, but Dave still didn’t want to be an asshole about it. Even if his son had tried to at the very least maim him on multiple occasions. Nothing to hold against this guy though.

“How about you tell me what your school had mentioned first?” Mr. Egbert suggested, and okay, that was a good start. Sure, it was based off of the lie, but Dave could fudge the answer more than easily enough.

“Alright, that works. Uh, mainly they just mentioned that people bullied him a lot, and that there was some explosion killing him and a couple other kids? That was kind of confusing though, since they said the other kids were in a different place,” Dave said. He figured that would be something to figure out after all. He had his own suspicion on what happened to them, but there was no real way for him to figure out for certain quite yet.

Mr. Egbert nodded, seeming to listen intently to everything he said. “Yes, it really was quite tragic. I believe the other children had died in the resulting fire caused by the explosion, but there are any rumors around it, that I’m sure are the cause of all the confusion,” he explained.

Yeah, dying in a fire seemed like a reasonable enough thing to think. It didn’t count out the idea that the Trickster had been the one to kill at least one or two of them though. It would explain the confusion surrounding the deaths, after all.

“Yeah, people at my school were saying that they were all murdered or something, but that didn’t sound right,” Dave said. Mr. Egbert nodded, not seeming too phased by that. He probably heard things like that a lot after all.

“Yes, I’ve come across such rumors myself, but I’m more than certain it was nothing more than a tragic accident,” he said. Dave nodded in agreement, even though he was pretty sure the dude was wrong on that. It was definitely better for him to think that though. Dave could only imagine the kind of fucking trauma that would happen if he found out about the Trickster.

He seemed like a really nice guy, so Dave was going to try his best not to let that happen.

“So, you said it was an accident, right? Like, the people said that he got locked in the school by bullies, so you don’t think they actually meant to…” Dave asked, trailing off. Mr. Egbert quickly shook his head at that.

“No, I don’t think it was intentional. It doesn’t make what happened any less heartbreaking, but I do believe that it was supposed to be a simple prank gone wrong,” he said. Dave nodded, not sure about what else to ask him about. It was still fucking weird asking about him and hearing the guy talk about his kid. Especially when he knew that said kid was a murderous monster at this point.

“So, why do you think like, they were bullying him, I guess?” Dave asked after another bite of his food.

“John was always enthusiastic about everything he did and liked. I think that enthusiasm tended to single him out. It never seemed to bother him, he loved what he loved and didn’t mind if other people thought it was odd. Which might have been another reason why,” Mr. Egbert explained.

Dave tried to imagine the Trickster in the form he had without all the gruesome wounds and burns. Some bright eyed kid going on about ghost busters or some horrible movie he had been posting about on his Myspace. He wondered if Mr. Egbert was idolizing his son, or if he really had changed that much in the time since he died.

Dave didn’t have the answer, and either one was unnerving as fuck.

“I’m sorry about your son,” Dave blurted out without thinking. It just seemed appropriate after all. The older man smiled softly at him, nodding just a bit.

“Thank you, it’s nice getting a chance to talk about him,” he said. Dave figured that he probably didn’t like talking about his death, and wondered if that was enough information to sate Rose for now. He didn’t know what she expected him to find out from this dude after all.

A question popped into Dave’s head, and he hesitated before actually asking it. He knew there was no fucking way he could give himself away. Or at least, no way if the guy didn’t already know what was going on. He supposed that was an option. How could they be certain that the Trickster completely avoided his old family after all? He guessed there was one way to find out.

“Do you ever feel like he’s, um, still around?” Dave asked. The question was more than vague enough to not let anything slip, and Mr. Egbert’s only reaction was a sad little smile and a nod.

“Yes, often it’ll feel like he’s watching over me. Things will move in his room while I’m gone, I’m certain he’s still with me in a way,” he answered. It didn’t seem like there was anything strange or doublespeak about his answer, which was kind of a relief. Dave didn’t want to think that this guy was just letting the ghost of his kid run around murdering people.

“That’s kind of cool,” Dave said, not sure how else to respond. It would be pretty cool after all, if he wasn’t so sure about the dark truth behind what was going on. At least he could keep him out of it.

“Yes, it is,” Mr. Egbert said.

They spoke for a bit longer after that, talking less about the Trickster, or well John, although he still came up quite a bit. Mr. Egbert asked Dave what he was doing over the summer, and Dave told him he was just working at his family’s shop. It wasn’t a lie after all. Dave was starting to get a suspicion that he thought he was being bullied himself, but Dave wasn’t about to correct him on that. If he was making up a reason for why Dave would be asking him all these questions, he wasn’t going to mess that up.

When they finally stood up to leave Mr. Egbert clapped a hand onto Dave’s shoulder, giving him another warm smile. “If you ever need anyone to talk to, don’t be a stranger now, alright?” Mr. Egbert said. Dave nodded, although he hoped he wouldn’t have to bother the guy again. It would be best to try to leave the poor guy out of all this mess as much as he could.

“Yeah man, thanks for the talk,” Dave said, “I have your number if anything happens,” he added.

Heading back to his house, Dave started messaging Rose.

TG: so i talked to the tricksters dad
TG: he really seems like a nice guy
TG: said trickster was bullied and shit went wrong one day and then kids were dead
TT: You’ll have to give me a bit more in depth explanation of everything later.
TG: yeah of course
TG: i think we should leave the guy alone though
TG: he seems like a normal guy and itd suck if he ended up getting pulled into all his spirit bullshit
TT: Yes, I think you have a point there.
TT: It might be a good idea to keep an eye on him for a bit longer, but I think you’re right that we should try to keep him out of this if it’s possible.
TG: alright cool
TG: so yeah ill fill you in when you get home tonight
TG: later
TT: Later.

The rest of the afternoon went by without any sort of incident. Dave didn’t go into the base, since they finally finished painting. So there was nothing to do but sit around and fetch weird horror ingredients for Rose.

Once it got almost time for his twin to get home, Dave started searching his room. He wanted to trust Dirk, he really did, but if they were gonna talk about shit he wasn’t about to fall into another spying scheme again. Thankfully, either he’d gotten a hell of a lot better at making them completely indiscreet and hiding them, or he stuck by his word and didn’t put any new recorders in place while they weren’t looking.

Rose didn’t immediately come into his room when she got home, and he guessed she was trying to make it look like nothing was up too. Dave didn’t think that they were doing anything that worthy of freaking out about, but chances are people would freak anyway. Might as well cover all of their bases to keep any and all freaking down to an absolute minimum.

Once she did come in, she locked the door behind her, and glanced around to room as if looking for recorders herself.

“Already checked, pretty sure we’re good,” Dave said, noticing the slight way Rose eased up with relief.

“Alright then, how did it go?” she asked, walking further into the room and sitting down at his desk, since he was currently taking up the bed.

“It went fine, like I said, he’s a nice guy. I’m pretty sure Trickster had killed the other kids involved with his death, but I don’t think he has any idea about that,” Dave told her. Rose nodded, and Dave could practically see her writing down notes in her head.

“Was there anything else that stuck out to you?” she asked, and Dave had to think for a few moments before nodding.

“I’m pretty sure Trickster watches him or comes back to his old house sometimes or something like that. I mean, I asked him if he felt like he was still around and he said he did and that sometimes things’ll move in his old room and stuff like that. It could just be him looking too far into it, but it’d make sense if it was him, ya know?” Dave explained. Rose nodded, humming a bit to herself before speaking.

“That does seem to be the most likely scenario. I know I’ve been asking you to do a lot recently, so if you want to say no it’s quite all right,” she said.

“Is there anything else for me to do?” Dave asked before Rose could say just what it is she wanted him to do.

“No, not particularly.”

“Just tell me what insane task you have for me next then,” Dave said, Rose smiling at him a bit.

“Alright then. If you could keep a watch on Mr. Egbert to confirm if the Trickster is watching after him, that would be quite helpful” she said. Dave nodded, pretty much having expected her to say that.

“Yeah, okay I can do that, as long as you cover for me with Dirk,” he said. He felt kind of weird spying on the dude, but it would be good to know if Trickster really was following him around.

He was sure that, even as heartless as he’d become now, if the Trickster was keeping a watch on his dad it wasn’t for any nefarious reasons. Dave didn’t think he was in any danger, but if Rose wanted to make sure he could do that.

“I’ll keep a watch on Dirk, don’t worry about that,” she said, which was a relief.

“Just for a bit though, I’m sure we’ll start shit up again soon and I won’t have time to be running your weird errands all the time,” Dave told her.

“Of course,” Rose said. “I’ll leave you to it then. Let me know when you plan to start watching him, so I know to keep Dirk busy,” she added as she stood up from the desk.

“You need to get me where he lives and shit first, I’ll start whenever you do your creepy stalking shit and find that out,” Dave said. She nodded as she started towards the door.

“I’ll have the information to you by morning,” she said.

“Alright then, later,” Dave said, lying down. Rose said a quick goodbye before leaving the room. Dave had a feeling that this might not be the best idea, but as long as no one found out it would be alright. Sure, there wasn’t any way for him to be certain that it would stay under wraps, but he knew Rose would do the best she could to keep it between them.

It would just be for a couple of weeks at most, and then he could leave the poor guy alone and get back to his actual job. Dave knew he had some shitty fucking luck lately, but he could last just a few weeks without anything horrible blowing up in his face, right?

Right?

---

Karkat wasn’t used to all the crazy fucking bullshit that went into being a spirit.

It turned out he wasn’t used to all of that bullshit stopping either though.

Staying with Jade was nice, he supposed. It was a hell of a lot less dramatic than it had been the last few weeks. Jade herself was pleasant enough, and didn’t press him on anything too uncomfortable to talk about. John sure seemed to like staying here, and with the lack of hunter attacks Karkat could get behind it too.

It was just so fucking strange. John assured him that it was safe here. The hunters wouldn’t be going after anyone for a while most likely, and would think twice about attacking all three of them at once. They could relax for a bit.

Karkat could not get himself to relax. Even if everything John said was proven without a doubt to be true, he still doubted he’d be able to. Karkat couldn’t even remember the last time he had relaxed, and not just counting since he died. It was entirely possible that he’d just never relaxed before. It wouldn’t even surprise him if that was the case.

Even still, he guessed even if he wasn't relaxed he was better than he'd been before, being on the edge of a breakdown just about constantly. Fucking hell, it seemed like the only time he wasn’t nearly in a panic lately it was because he actually was in one.

So, almost two weeks in a place where he didn’t have to think about getting attacked or ending up with some way more less than sane seeming spirits was welcomed. He just wasn’t quite used to it yet.

Especially right after the whole eating thing. He tried not to think about that as much as possible, but there was nothing to fucking do, so it kept coming back up in his mind as much as he tried to keep it down. John didn’t bring it up though, and if he told Jade about what happened she didn’t either.

It was appreciated, but fuck, Karkat almost wanted to talk about it. Or maybe not talk about it, but yell, cry, do something to get it out of his system. He was pretty damn sure it just wasn’t that simple though, as much as he wanted it to be. Ignoring it was probably the best thing anyone could do for now.

It was just him and Jade in the run down little RV right now. Karkat wasn’t too sure where John had gotten off to, but as long as he wasn’t getting mixed up in more shit with Vriska he didn’t care. It wasn't the first time they'd been alone, and even though Jade was nice as can be it was still awkward as fuck for him.

“So, how’re you getting used to everything lately? You seem to be doing a lot better since the first time we met. That was only what? A couple days after you became a spirit?” Jade asked, breaking the silence that had been building up like he'd expected her to. That was another thing with her, she didn’t seem to have a problem just talking at all. Karkat supposed that was a trait her and John shared, but it was really fucking noticeable when dealing with both of them.

Karkat just shrugged at her question. Yeah, he guessed technically he was doing better since then, but it didn’t feel like it. “It might’ve been like a week or something? I wasn’t really keeping track of shit before running into John,” he said, figuring he could at least say something to the second part. Jade nodded, seeming to either not have noticed or just not cared that he completely disregarded the actual question.

“Yeah, the first couple of weeks always seem to be pretty hectic and confusing for everyone,” she said. Karkat figured that was fair enough.

“How was it for you?” he asked, not quite sure how else to continue the conversation. God, he needed more practice actually talking to people. A simple conversation with someone you’ve been living with for over a week should not be this hard. Usually John was there to fill in the awkward gaps of silence he left though. When Karkat was left alone to talk to someone everything he did sounded stilted and awkward.

“Ugh, it was just awful! I almost didn’t survive. I wouldn’t have if Jake didn't find me when he did,” she said. Karkat couldn’t help but nod in understanding, because yeah, he could safely say he could relate to that pretty well.

“Well, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one who would’ve been fucked without some help,” he grumbled.

“Of course you aren’t the only one. I’m pretty sure most spirits don’t last past their first few weeks. We’re kind of the lucky ones, in that,” Jade said.

“If you can call that lucky,” Karkat muttered quietly, regretting it as soon as he saw the sympathetic little smile Jade was giving him.

“I know it’s a lot at first,” Jade started and Karkat was shaking his head before she could even finish her sentence. The last fucking thing he needed right now was someone else telling him about how it would all get better with time. He didn’t even know if he wanted it to get better, but that wasn’t exactly something he wanted to talk to people about yet. Or ever, if he could help it.

“Ugh, can we not go into this right now? Like fuck, thanks or whatever but I’ve heard it enough from John alright?” he snapped. It didn’t seem to bother Jade any, who just nodded.

“Alright, alright, no need to get all grouchy about it,” she said. Karkat just huffed, letting his head rest on the old beat up table in front of him. Yeah, he knew he was being an asshole about this, but fuck he was pretty much an asshole about everything, he didn’t see why this would be any different.

“I’m grouchy about everything,” he said, and it wasn’t the best comeback in the world, but he didn’t feel like trying for something smarter right now anyway.

“Well that’s true,” was Jade’s response, and he couldn’t even argue with her. He was the one to say it in the first place. So instead he just didn’t say anything, and he wished John would get back already, because he didn’t know how to deal with awkward silences. Jade didn’t seem bothered any, but not a lot of things seemed to bother her at all. Karkat wasn’t sure if that annoyed him or not.

Karkat supposed he couldn’t blame her though, you probably don’t last as long as she had getting bothered by every little thing like he was.

She didn’t try to talk to him again, which he supposed he was thankful for. It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to long stretches of time with nothing to do after all. If anything that was the only thing close to being what he considered to be normal.

Karkat tried not to let the sigh of relief that escaped him when John appeared in the RV again be noticeable, but he wasn’t too sure on how much he succeeded with that.

“Hey Karkat, how are you feeling today?” John asked, walking over and sitting down across from him at the little table.

“Fine,” Karkat said, not sure how else to answer. He was probably doing fine after all, he wasn’t any worse off than he’d been when John left after all.

If he was being totally honest, he hadn’t been feeling much of anything for the past few days. That was a good thing though. Much better than the alternative of feeling fucking everything way too much. If he could just numb himself for a while maybe he could get a better handle on everything.

“Oh, that’s good,” John said, and Karkat had nearly forgotten that they’d been talking. God damn he had to focus better. “So, I was thinking, if you were feeling up to it maybe we should head out tonight?” Karkat frowned, not expecting that. Sure, he doubted that Jade would want them to just stick around forever, but he didn’t expect to get kicked out quite so soon.

“Sure, whatever’s fine with me if Jade wants us gone,” Karkat said with a shrug. He didn’t understand the confused look that he received from both John and Jade.

“I don’t want you guys gone, you only got here a little bit ago, it’s fine if you want to stay,” Jade said quickly.

“Yeah, Karkat I only meant like to go out on a walk or something, not leave completely. The RV’s pretty small and I thought you might not like being all cooped up in here all the time,” John explained. Karkat felt a little dumb after that, but hell, the wording was definitely vague enough that he could have meant just leaving for good. Besides, being cooped up wasn’t even something he registered anymore. The thought hadn't occurred to him once since they started staying there.

“It doesn’t bother me, I’m used to it,” he said, receiving another little sympathetic look from the two of them and god he hated that.

“Well, even still would you wanna get out a bit later on, once the sun goes down?” John asked him again, and Karkat just shrugged.

“Yeah sure whatever, I said I don’t care,” he mumbled. Honestly he would have preferred to just stay in the RV and continue to ignore everything, but he didn’t want them thinking he was sulking or anything. That wasn’t what he was doing. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, just trying to figure out what in the world he wanted out of this.

Trying to figure out if having to kill people was worth prolonging his pathetic as fuck existence. He was pretty damn sure he already knew the answer, but he wasn’t sure if he was ready to accept it yet.

“Awesome,” John said happily, knocking Karkat out of his thoughts. Right, spending a few hours wandering around aimlessly wouldn’t be so bad. If it was what John wanted to do he could put up with it.

“Just be careful alright? I swear every time I turn my back on you John you’ve ended up tangled up in so much drama,” Jade said. Karkat wasn’t too surprised to find out that John attracted a lot of drama, it seemed pretty accurate compared to what he’d picked up so far. Shit seemed to follow him fucking everywhere.

“That’s not my fault! Things just seem to happen a lot, I don’t know why,” John said. Jade rolled her eyes at him.

“I do know why. Its name starts with a V and ends with a Riska,” she said.

“Okay, that’s probably fair,” John relented. That sounded pretty damn accurate from Karkat’s perspective as well. Sure she might have been the one to train him or whatever so that he survived and could fight off hunters, but that did not mean Karkat had to like her or think that what she did was a good thing.

When night came this time John didn’t teleport him out of the RV. They couldn’t use the door since everyone was pretty sure that if they tried to it would just fall off, but they were fucking ghosts. Karkat figured walking through a wall wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

Turns out that getting through the wall was easy, but he still ended up falling to the ground because apparently RVs are raised up and he did not come out where there were stairs. At least it was impossible to break an ankle as a ghost. That would have fucking sucked.

“You okay?” John asked as Karkat got back to his feet, not quite able to hide the amusement in his voice. Karkat didn’t expect anything else though, so it didn’t bother him too much.

“Just fucking perfect, thanks for asking,” he muttered.

“Okay, awesome,” John said. Once Karkat was back on his feet he started following John, not knowing or caring much where they were heading. He wanted to say that he trusted John enough to not get them into trouble, but while that wasn’t exactly the case. He did trust him enough to figure he wouldn’t get them into any trouble he couldn’t the get them back out of.

“So, how do you like staying with Jade?” John asked after a few moments of silence. Karkat figured that was a reasonable enough question.

“It’s fine. A lot less hectic than when we were just wandering around everywhere,” he said, John nodding.

“Yeah, that’s true. Sorry, I guess I could have brought you there earlier and saved us a lot of trouble,” John said. Karkat just shrugged, not sure if it would have actually fixed anything. Maybe, but he kind of doubted that if given the chance he wouldn’t have managed to screw that up too somehow.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Karkat told him. He wasn’t sure how much John believed him, but it was true as far as he was concerned.

“Alright, well I’m glad you’re liking it there,” he said. Karkat just nodded, because he was still shit at keeping conversations going, what a surprise. He wasn’t paying any attention to where they were going, but he tried to appreciate being outside none the less. He still didn’t quite see what the point was. It wasn’t like he still had muscles to stretch or anything like that, but it didn’t hurt any to just humor John.

“Um,” John started, but didn’t actually say anything. Karkat frowned as he looked over at him.

“Yeah?” he asked, figuring that there was something he wanted to say.

“I was just wondering if you were feeling any better, about you know, what happened before we went to Jade’s?” John asked and Karkat wasn’t able to fight back the frown that fell over his face in an instant at the question. He’d been trying his best not to think about that, but he guessed that didn’t mean other people weren’t thinking about it as well.

“I’m fine,” he said simply, starting to walk just a little bit faster. John effortlessly seemed to be able to keep pace with him though.

“Okay that’s good! But like, if you wanna talk about it, it’s totally cool,” he said.

“Thanks, but I don’t,” Karkat told him. He really, really didn’t fucking want to talk about it, hell no. It was something he wanted to ignore as much as possible and just hope that by the time he had to do it again he’d figured something out and either accepted it or... whatever.

“That’s fine, I just thought I’d offer,” John told him.

“Well thanks for the offer,” Karkat said, walking even faster because god damn it he just wanted to be past this already. It was the last fucking subject he wanted to think about and John didn’t seem to want to let it go at fucking all.

“Okay, no problem,” John said, and that seemed to finally be the end of it, as he didn’t try to say anything else. Karkat started to slow down again a bit, not realizing until then just how fast he was walking. It was probably obvious as fuck to John that something was up, but it was hard for Karkat to care. He knew he was a goddamn mess, and John had to have figured that out a long time ago. There wasn’t much of a point in trying to hide it anymore.

“So, did you actually want to go somewhere or did you just want to walk?” Karkat asked after a moment, figuring that he should at least try to talk to John. Didn’t want him thinking he was actually pissed at him or something. That wasn’t it, he just didn’t know how to function like a proper goddamn person, and nothing about that was John’s fault.

“I was just thinking to walk, unless there was someplace specific you wanted to go?” John said, and Karkat just shook his head.

“No, I don’t know anywhere around here, and I really couldn’t care less. Walking is just fine,” he said, glad that he wasn’t getting led somewhere without actually being asked or anything like that. Walking around for a bit wasn’t that bad, but if John had done this to try to get him to do something or interact with people without telling him he’d be kind of annoyed.

“Alright, that’s fine,” John said, and thankfully he didn’t bother trying to press the conversation to go any longer. Walking actually seemed kind of nice for a while, even if Karkat didn’t see the real point. It wasn’t like they were doing anything they couldn’t do back at the RV. They weren’t really doing anything at all.

“I guess we should head back soon,” John said, and Karkat wasn’t sure where exactly they were but they’d been out for a few hours now at least. Heading back was probably a good idea.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Karkat said, turning towards John and hoping that he’d been paying attention to where they were going because he didn’t have the slightest idea on how to get back. When he looked at him though, his eyes were locked on something else and he’d gone way too still for Karkat’s liking.

“Uh, John?” he asked, keeping his voice quiet, not sure if he wanted to look at whatever had caught his attention.

“Karkat, don’t move,” John said, not taking his eyes off of the spot in the distance as he took a step back towards him. Karkat took a deep breath, preparing to teleport because it was clear that whatever the fuck was going on wasn’t good and they needed to get the fuck out of there.

Before John could reach out and grab him a sharp bang sounded out. Karkat flinched, drawing back at the blast. He expected ringing in his ears but there wasn’t any; instead he could clearly hear John and another unfamiliar voice both cursing.

Looking over, Karkat didn’t recognize the person attacking. They were fast and it was dark. Light flashed whenever their gun went off but didn't illuminate them for long. Nowhere near long enough for him to make out too many distinct features. He couldn't tell if the shots were hitting John or not with the way the fight was drawing away from him.

Karkat jolted out of his frozen state when he realized just how far away they had gotten. He didn’t know if John was leading him away on purpose or if he’d forgotten all about him, but neither option sounded too good in his opinion. Both ended up with John fighting some maniac probable-hunter, and fuck that. Karkat was nowhere near too proud to run away.

“John we need to fucking go!” he shouted, running after them.

Karkat stopped in his tracks when the hunter turned towards him, gun locked in his direction. “Can’t believe no one’s taken you out yet,” he said, and Karkat could barely process that he was saying through the panic.

It took a few long seconds for him to realize that the hunter hadn’t shot him. It took even longer to figure out that was because John had barreled into him, knocking him to the ground and sending his weapon flying across the street. The wind was whipping around John who stood over the hunter. He looked just as furious as he had fighting Terezi.

For his credit, the hunter looked just as fucking pissed.

“Don’t you dare try to hurt him!” John was shouting over the wind. Something seemed to shift in the hunter as he stared up at him, his expression shifting from anger to fear.

Neither of them were paying any attention to Karkat now, and the hunter’s weapon was out of reach, and John looked, well. Karkat wasn’t sure what John looked like he was about to do, but they weren’t sticking around long enough to find out.

“John!” Karkat shouted, running up to them once again. John didn’t seem to even notice until he grabbed him by the arm. “We’re leaving!” he snapped.

“What? Kar-” John was cut off as they teleported. Karkat expected for the breathlessness to start choking him, but instead he was met with dizzying lightheaded weakness that left him keeping a hand on John after it was over with so that he didn’t fall to the ground.

“Wait, what just?” John asked, looking around them. Before Karkat could even begin to try to figure out what he was even talking about, they were teleporting again and okay there was the breathlessness he was expecting. This time when it stopped he did end up slumping down to his knees.

“Oh shit, Karkat are you okay? I’m sorry I know you hate teleporting but I just needed to make sure we were actually far enough away,” John said. Karkat nodded, rubbing at his head to try and clear his mind so that he could communicate with real words and sentences.

“I’m fine,” he muttered, which was a start. John nodded before sighing and sitting down with him.

“Sorry. They don’t usually attack at night. I didn’t think they’d be doing anything at all for a while,” he said.

“Hunter?” Karkat asked and John just nodded. Yeah, that wasn’t actually a surprise on any level.

“That was pretty awesome though,” he said, a hint of a smile tugging at his lips. Karkat frowned at him, most of the lightheadedness dissipated enough by now that he could get properly angry.

“Absolutely nothing about that was awesome you asshole,” he snapped, because yeah getting nearly shot at by a hunter with magic bullets was not any definition of the word awesome. The small smile fell right off of John’s face and he started shaking his head.

“No, no! God, of course being attacked by some douche with dumb hipster glasses wasn’t awesome. I meant the way you teleported us, it was really cool that you managed it,” John explained. Karkat just stared at him for a moment, caught off guard.

“What? I- you did that,” he said, confused. John started shaking his head, smiling once again.

“The second time yeah, only because I wasn’t sure how far away we got. The first one was all you,” he explained.

“Oh,” Karkat said. Well, that explained the different feeling he supposed. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He hadn’t even realized what he was doing at the time, seeing as he had no idea it was him responsible for it.

“Come on, let’s get back to Jade’s before something else goes wrong okay?” John said, pushing himself back up to his feet. Karkat nodded, following his lead and getting up off the ground.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”

Chapter Text

Dave sat in the front room of the base, ignoring the over complicated instructions for a coffee table he and Nepeta were attempting to put together. Nepeta had tried to make sense of them at first, but it had become a lost cause some time ago. Somehow they’d forgotten until now to get a new table after the last one was destroyed in the attack. Well, he figured it wasn’t too surprising they forgot with all the bullshit that had been going down since then.

There was pretty much nothing else left to fix up though, and since hunting was still on hold this was the best use of their time.

“Why does this thing have eight legs?” he asked, pretty sure that’s not usually how you build a table. Well, maybe some sort of weird octagon table, but this one seemed to be of the normal rectangle variety.

“I think those connect the legs together, that’s why they’re diffurent sizes,” Nepeta said. Oh, that made more sense. Before he could say that the front door slammed open behind them, startling the two a bit.

“Where’s the happy Lalonde?” Eridan snapped, storming inside and dragging his gun behind him. Dave was pretty damn sure that wasn’t how you were supposed to handle a gun. Eridan didn’t exactly look very happy right now though, so it was best to just let him do what he wanted. Both he and the gun looked a little more worse for wear than Dave had expected. Nothing too bad, at least when it came to the person. Eridan looked to only have a couple scrapes and bruises, while the gun seemed bent in a way that it definitely wasn’t supposed to bend.

“Uh, did something happen man?” Dave asked, looking him over and not answering his question about Roxy’s whereabouts just yet. Eridan looked a step away from outright pouting, crossing his arms and sending a glare towards the two of them.

“This piece of shit gun is broken that’s what happened,” he said, and Dave just nodded at that. It was pretty clear that Eridan didn’t want to tell them what was up, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to try.

“Did it just bust on its own or did something go and break it?” Dave asked, although if he had to guess he’d say that something definitely happened. He had no idea what, he almost didn’t want to know, but it was something for sure. He supposed he could make a guess on what could get the drop on Eridan like that, but he'd rather not speculate.

“Exactly none of that is your business. Now is Rox here today or not?” Eridan snipped.

“In her office man,” Dave said, figuring he could let this go for now. He could just ask Roxy what the hell was going on later. Eridan stomped out of the room without another word to either of them. Dave shared a look of befuddlement with Nepeta before shrugging and going back to making the table. Whatever the fuck Eridan had done probably wasn’t a good thing, but Dave also had enough of his own bullshit to deal with without getting dragged into that.

The important thing was he was alive and seemed more or less uninjured, so nothing too horrible could have gone on. It wasn’t even like he was one to talk about doing stupid shit either. If it was that important, Dave figured he’d find out eventually.

They had finally managed to finish up the table (there were a couple screws left, because there are always a couple screws left) and Nepeta was standing on top to make sure it was stable enough when Rose walked into the room. Rose didn't seem the least bit fazed, but then again standing on a table was far from the strangest thing she'd walked in on.

“Hey, do you know what the fuck Eridan was up to?” Dave asked, figuring if anyone knew it’d be Rose. Or if she didn’t know, she’d be able to find out the fastest.

“Eridan was up to something?” she asked back, a look of confusion on her face.

“That grouchy grouch got his gun all screwed up somehow, but he wouldn’t say what happened” Nepeta told her, jumping down from the table and yeah, Dave figured that was sturdy enough. No one else wanted to build it so they could deal at least.

Rose seemed incredibly intrigued by that, raising an eyebrow and this was pretty much what Dave figured would happen. “No, I can’t say I know what that’s about. You wouldn’t happen to know where he’s gone off to do you?” she asked.

“Pretty sure he went to go beg Roxy to fix it for him,” Dave told her. He would feel kind of bad for subjecting Eridan to both Rose and Roxy, because there was no doubt he wasn’t already being question about what the fuck happened. He’d had to deal with a Dirk interrogation though, which was even worse so he had no mercy. If he was going to get in trouble for doing stupid shit then everyone was.

“Alright then, I’ll just go and make sure everything is in order. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about,” Rose said, and yeah she was going to have fun with this. If Dave had to guess he figured Roxy already got the answer out of him by this point, so it wouldn’t take too long for Rose to find out too. Roxy might just straight up tell her as soon as she entered the room.

“Everything has been so stressful lately,” Nepeta said with a sigh once they were alone again. Dave nodded in agreement because that was one way to put it, hell almost an understatement in Dave’s opinion.

“Yeah, here’s hoping we’re through the worst of it,” he said. He couldn’t imagine how shit could get any worse than having one of their hunters stuck in a coma for fucking who knows how long and their base jumped by one of the strongest and deadly spirits out there. Well, he could imagine how, it mostly involved people actually dying. Lots of people dying, if he was being honest. He could imagine some pretty shitty scenarios if he tried hard enough. He was really fucking hoping that none of them would happen though.

“Yeah, I just want things to get back to normal already,” Nepeta agreed. Dave wasn’t too sure how likely that was to actually happen, but he felt the same way. Shit just seemed so much simpler before he started learning all these new things about spirits. Just point your sword at the nearest monster and swing until dead, rinse and repeat. Maybe Mom and Bro did have a point in keeping this stuff from them.

He still couldn’t quite believe that was the best option, but he could understand it being the easiest.

“Well, I’m gonna head home. Keep me posted if Eridan’s actually doomed us all,” Dave said, looking around the room to make sure he didn’t forget anything. He was pretty sure he hadn’t brought anything with him but the stuff in his pockets though, so he figured he was good.

“Will do!” Nepeta said, giving him a smile and thumbs up as he left the base. Once he was a safe distance away Dave ducked down a random street, not wanting anyone to notice he wasn’t going home. He quickly got up the address Rose had found for him this morning before sending her a text.

TG: yo
TG: gonna go get my snoop on like a complete fucking creep while you interrogate the dick prince
TG: keep a cover for me
TG: thanks

Dave didn’t bother waiting for a response before getting up google maps to try to find this place. It didn’t seem too ridiculously far, within walking distance for sure. Would be nicer to drive but he didn’t want to tip anyone off that he was gone so blatantly like that. If someone was going to notice he was gone, it would be after checking that he wasn't in his room. Still, he’d like Rose to know what he was doing since she was the one asking this of him and he didn’t know how long he’d be gone for.

It wasn’t too much trouble to find the house, which looked the same as pretty much every other house on this street. Dave wasn’t sure what else he expected though. Mr. Egbert had seemed like a nice normal guy, no reason for his house to be weird or anything like that.

There was a car in the driveway so Dave tried to stay out of sight, keeping low and against a neighbor’s fence as he made his way closer.

He wasn’t sure what it was he was supposed to look for. Some sign that Trickster was still hanging around here, he guessed. He had no idea what that would be though.

Dave managed to make it right up to the side of the house without anything going wrong, which was a good start. It felt a little scummy sneaking around like this, but it wasn’t like he was planning to rob the dude or anything. Just look around for any remnants of his dead kid. Which didn't sound much better thinking about it.

There was a tire swing and one of those weird spring toys Dave never saw outside of actual playgrounds in the yard. He knew Rose would’ve mentioned something if he had any other kids, so that was kind of sad.

He wasn’t sure if this was the same house he lived in when Trickster was still alive. He was pretty sure he remembered Mr. Egbert saying something about feeling like his son was still around in his room sometimes though, so it probably was. Thinking about it, his room would be the best place to look. If he knew which one that was and if he wasn't trying to avoid breaking and entering here. Maybe he could look through a window or something? He guessed that would work. Hopefully it was on the bottom floor.

Slinking around the house, Dave tried to stay as out of sight as possible as he peaked into windows. Pretty normal looking living room, no one inside there. It was kind of hard to see because it was a bit darker inside than it was outside, but he could manage well enough. A couple weird vases on the fireplace mantle. Urns maybe? Geeze, that was dark.

Office, bathroom, kitchen. Dave had to duck down quick looking into the kitchen, because okay, looks like Mr. Egbert is home right now. Well, he doubted there was anything to see in the kitchen anyway, so moving onto the next room was just fine by him.

It didn’t take him very long to look around the entire bottom floor, and Dave couldn’t say he was too surprised about not running into the bedroom he wanted. Looking around the house again, he tried to figure out which upstairs window would most likely be the Trickster’s. Really, there was only one window he had a way to get up and look into, so Dave figured he might as well just go for it and try that one.

Trying to stay out of sight, Dave climbed the tree with the tire swing. It wasn’t too difficult, just having to scrabble a little before he could reach some of the low branches and pull himself up. The hard part was trying to make sure the branches he was one were stable enough to get him close to the window so he could see inside. The worst thing wouldn’t be falling, although that would be pretty annoying at least. It’d be falling and alerting Mr. Egbert that someone was snooping around his yard.

There were a few times where he came way too close to losing his grip and meeting the ground for his liking. Eventually Dave managed to get a stable and close enough position to look inside. It was pretty dark, but it definitely looked more like a teenager’s room than a grown man’s, so he figured he got the right one.

There were posters on the walls, mainly of old crappy movies Dave had only sort of heard of before. A made bed with a spread that looked like it might have had ghosts on it? He couldn’t tell from this angle. Dressers with little miscellaneous objects on it and a goddamn CD rack stacked up in the corner. An old TV was in the place where a computer probably would have been in a more modern looking bedroom. The whole room looked like it hadn’t been changed in ten years and yeah okay, this was pretty depressing.

Dave didn’t know what this was supposed to accomplish. Yep, the Trickster certainly had been a teenager in the late 90s, early 2000s. He wasn’t doing the math right now to figure out exactly when. It wasn’t like it matter after all. Maybe Dirk was right about this information all being useless. The only thing it was doing was making him feel bad for the Trickster, which wasn’t exactly something he wanted.

Whatever, he was going to get out of this tree and text Rose to see if there was anything she actually wanted him to do here. If not then he was leaving because this spying shit wasn’t sitting right with him. If she wanted him to keep up with this shit she’d have to have a solid reason for it besides just ‘information’ or she could do it herself.

He’d just about reached the trunk of the tree when something slammed into him hard. Dave kept himself from screaming at the last second, clamping his mouth shut so not to let out any noise. Twisting himself in the air, he hit the ground and rolled away from whatever had attacked him, sword out by the time he was back on his feet.

“Oh shit,” the words fell out of Dave’s mouth before he could even think. He sure hoped Rose was happy, because she was right about Trickster sticking around this place. Too fucking right if Dave had any say in it.

“What are you doing here?!” the spirit shouted, wind whipping harshly around them. It was already starting to cause the tire swing to rock back and force on its rope. Dave didn’t bother trying to answer, keeping his sword pointed towards the Trickster as his eyes glanced around their surroundings. The fall hadn't seemed to alert anyone, but if they fought here then it was only a matter of time before someone saw.

He had to get out of here before Mr. Egbert noticed them. He had to get the Trickster out of here before he saw him.

Dave turned and ran without a word, not sure where he was going but if he had to cut through other people’s yards then sure why the fuck not. If he could get at least a few houses away it would be better than this. They couldn’t fight here. He didn’t want to fight this spirit on his own at all, but if he had to he wanted to get somewhere else first.

“Oh no you don’t!” Trickster yelled. Dave noticed him blink out of existence from the corner of his eye, and was only just barely able to avoid being tackled to the ground again. Swinging out his sword, he was able to catch the spirit’s arm with his blade much easier than usual. Trickster didn’t even seem to notice, continuing to barrel right towards him. The smoke that usually wisped away from the cut almost instantly disappeared in the strong wind.

“Would you stop?” Dave snapped, continuing to jump away from Trickster’s attacks. His hair kept whipping into his eyes and it was hard as fuck to get a solid stance when his body felt like it was going to get blown down the street at any minute. He could barely hear himself over the sound of the wind rushing in his ears. If the Trickster could hear him he didn’t make any show of it, not even halting his assault in the slightest.

“You. Stay. The fuck. Away from here,” Trickster shouted, punctuating each part with a punch that Dave was only sometimes able to dodge. As fucking raging as he was, it made it both hard to get out from his attacks but easier to fight back. He was barely even taking note of Dave’s sword, not caring about the hits he was landing at all. Even still, all he could manage were little nips and cuts here and there. Enough to mark him but not enough to stop the barrage.

Trickster kept slashing at him, not even bothering to protect himself. Dave tried to use that to his advantage, dodging another one of the Trickster’s attacks and aiming right for his chest. There was a small part of him that was almost afraid of landing the hit. Taking out a spirit this strong would be a huge relief, but it felt almost wrong doing it here of all places.

That didn't seem to matter though, Trickster noticed right at the last second and disappearing from the spot in front of Dave. Before he could look around the spirit was yanking his sword arm back behind him. The weapon went flying off in the goddamn gale force winds, Dave not having any chance to grab after it. The spirit didn’t waste any time, slamming him hard up against the side of the house next.

“Why are you here?! What do you people want with him?!” Trickster shouted, sounding more enraged than he’d ever heard before. Dave tried to shift out of his hold but it was no use.

“Would you let me go you fucking idiot!” Dave yelled right back. Fucking hell, this was really goddamn bad. He wanted to keep this as down low as possible, but there was no fucking way he could do that now. Even if he somehow managed to keep Mr. Egbert from finding out, the others would notice that he’s been in a fight now. The Trickster was practically snarling at him at this point, but he wasn’t trying to strangle him or anything like that yet.

There was a part of Dave that couldn’t even blame Trickster for being so angry. He’d get pissed as fuck when spirits fuck around with his family. He guessed it worked the other way around too.

“Not until you tell me what you’re doing!” Trickster growled.

“Damn it he’ll see us!” Dave said, attempting to twist out of the spirit’s grip again.

“What?” the spirit asked, sounding genuinely confused for a moment.

“I-” Dave wouldn’t have even noticed the voice over the winds still rushing around him if it wasn’t for the way the Trickster completely locked up. The spirit wasn’t bothering to look at him anymore, and so Dave chanced looking away to see just what it was he was staring at now, even if he already had a pretty good idea.

“What. What’s going on here?” Mr. Egbert asked, his voice slow and confused. Dave slumped to the ground when the Trickster jumped away from him, not realizing the spirit had been holding him up as well.

“I, um, I don’t,” the Trickster stumbled over his words. Dave had definitely never heard him sound this confused and scared. Hell, he'd never heard a spirit sound so confused and scared. Well, maybe that new one. Either way it was fucking freaky. The wind had stopped completely and after the just about deafening sound of it before everything seemed much too quiet.

Mr. Egbert very slowly looked between the two of them, his eyes lingering for a long time on the spirit. Dave had no idea what to do. He had not meant for him to see the Trickster, this was pretty much worse case scenario right here. With the wind gone the strange mist that flowed from the cuts instead of blood was clear as day. Finally he glanced back towards Dave, only for a few seconds before returning his gaze to the Trickster.

“Dave, get inside of the house,” Mr. Egbert said at last, still not looking away from the ghost of his son.

“What?!” Trickster shouted before Dave could anything. The wind starting up again, nowhere near as strong as it was before but definitely there. They knew it was a thing Trickster could do but he definitely didn’t seem to use it this much usually. He finally looked away from the older man and turned back towards Dave, the rage from before coming back. “You’ve talked to him before? What do you want? What did you tell him?!”

Dave quickly scrambled back to his feet, not quite moving towards Mr. Egbert yet. He was not going to just be sitting on his ass with a pissed as fuck spirit coming towards him. His sword was still much too far away to reach. He didn’t even know if he wanted to attack him in front of his dad. He’d been hoping to keep the poor man out of this, god damn it.

“Nothing, okay? I didn’t say anything I swear,” Dave told him. He could understand the Trickster not wanting his dad to know that he was now a mass fucking murderer. Hell, if he could still get out of this without letting the guy in on that fact, he would. Sure, he didn’t actually care how Trickster felt about all of this, but he liked Mr. Egbert. He seemed like a genuinely nice dude who didn’t deserve the bullfuckery that was happening right now.

“Liar!” Trickster snapped, looking an inch away from attacking again.

“Dave, please listen to me and get inside,” Mr. Egbert repeated, taking a few small steps further outside. Dave fucking doubted that just locking the Trickster outside would solve anything, and he did not want to wreck the guy’s house on top of scarring him for life.

“Stay out of this!” Trickster yelled at Mr. Egbert, startling him. The look that flashed across his face afterwards was clearly regret, but it only stayed for a moment before he was back to looking pissed and snarling at Dave.

“John what the fuck is going on?”

Everyone turned to the new voice without even thinking. The new spirit, Karkat, whatever he was called, flinched back under the attention. The wind was still whipping around enough for Dave to know that the Trickster was beyond pissed.

“John?” Mr. Egbert asked, the disbelief in his voice clear. Dave knew there was no way he hadn’t realized who the spirit was before now. He looked just like the kid from the picture’s Dave had seen, especially since he wasn’t up in the horrifying get up he did to freak people out. He had to have at least noticed it was the spitting image of his dead kid.

“Dad, it’s, um I mean,” Trickster fumbled out again. The wind was dying down again and Dave had no fucking idea what was going to go on now.

That other spirit Karkat was looking between the two of them, his expression shocked as fuck about all of this. It didn’t look like he even knew that this guy was Trickster’s dad. His eyes caught Dave’s own for a second, and for once he could completely relate to the confusion and shock running through the spirit.

“Well fuck,” Karkat mumbled, Dave only hearing it because of how deathly quiet everything else was. He couldn’t help but just nod in agreement with that statement though.

Well fuck summed up everything that was going on really damn well.

---

The rest of the walk back to Jade’s weird RV was quiet and lacked any sort of sudden and random attacks from hunters. Karkat was very fucking thankful for both of these things. It was still pretty dark when they got back, the sun wouldn’t be up for another two hours at least. Karkat figured they could stay out longer, but like hell did he want to do that after all that shit that went down.

He didn’t bother even trying to teleport into the RV, just walking through the door and heading right over to the little table and seats. As soon as he sat down he slumped and let his head fall right down onto the table. He wasn't sure how he did it anyway, let alone how to repeat it. John teleported in a second later, and even though he wasn’t looking up Karkat could tell that Jade was staring at the two of them.

“So uh, how was your walk?” she asked.

“Karkat learned how to teleport.” John said, sounding a bit hesitant.

“Oh! Really? That’s awesome Karkat!” she said, sounding genuinely surprised. Karkat figured that it was pretty surprising seeing as he just sat around all day and didn’t bother doing anything to try to figure out how his powers worked.

“We got attacked by some maniac hunter with a gun and John wouldn’t fucking leave,” he muttered out, looking up from where he had his head resting in his arms. He just managed to catch sight of Jade spinning towards John and slapping him upside the head.

“Ouch! I mean I deserved that but still,” John said, rubbing the spot where she hit him.

“Which hunter was it?” Jade asked, not seeming too concerned with John actually being in pain. Karkat was pretty sure he was fine anyway.

“Uh, the guy one that uses guns and has hair like,” John explained, motioning with his hands up above his head in a kind of whooshing move. Karkat wasn’t too sure if that was the best way to describe someone, but Jade seemed to know who he was talking about.

“Oh, that’s one. He’s so annoying,” she said. “You two are both okay though?” she added.

“Yeah, no one got hurt,” John said, Karkat nodding in agreement.

“I swear, I can’t leave you alone for a minute without you getting sucked right back into the drama zone John,” Jade complained. That was very fucking accurate as far as Karkat was concerned. Well, the drama either followed John or him, he couldn’t tell which it was. Either fucking way, he’d like for that to stop.

“I know, I swear I’m not doing it on purpose. These things just happen for some reason and they won't stop,” John whined. As far as Karkat could tell that actually seemed to be the truth. Shit just kept fucking happening, and yeah it seemed fine when they were staying with Jade, but he was just waiting for that to blow up sooner or later. He hoped that it wouldn’t, but he wasn’t going to go assuming that things would stay fine as long as they stayed here. The second he stopped thinking something was going to go wrong was the time when shit went to hell in all ways imaginable.

“Well, I guess you can’t help being attacked by a hunter, and it is really cool that Karkat’s learning more things,” Jade said. Karkat just shrugged at that, not sure how cool he actually thought it was. He guessed it was more useful than anything, if he could even figure out how to do it again. He had no idea what he’d actually done after all and it had felt fucking awful. Still, if he could manage it in a pinch that would be nice.

Karkat listened to John and Jade talk for a bit longer, mainly about how strange it was on the timing of the attack. Hunters weren’t usually out at night, and considering how fucking crazy shit had been recently the idea that they’d send just a single hunter after him and John didn’t seem likely. The attack had still happened though, so it was just weird.

He still wasn’t too sure if sleeping actually helped with conserving energy, but at the very least it helped to pass the time. He didn’t exactly feel like going back outside anytime soon after all. He just wanted some calm and quiet for a bit, if that wasn't too much to ask.

Karkat jolted awake, falling to the floor in a panic. Clutching his chest, it took several long agonizing seconds of gasping for breath for him to calm down enough to remember that he didn’t even need it. Easing himself down from the sudden burst of fear that woke him, Karkat only just noticed he was shaking.

“Fucking hell,” Karkat muttered, pulling himself back to his feet and trying to figure out what the fuck just happened. Looking around the RV was the same as it always was, although there wasn’t anyone else around right now. That wasn't too strange. Jade left a lot and sometimes John went off to do his own thing. It felt fucking unnerving right now though. Did he have another weird dream? He couldn’t remember any, but that didn’t stop the dread sitting in his gut that kept saying something was wrong.

“John? Jade? Are either of you here or am I just being a fucking asshole talking to myself right now?” he called out, not getting any kind of answer. He didn't expect one, but he still didn't like it.

He should just stay where he was and wait for them to get back. Shit had proved pretty damn strongly last night that things always went wrong when he tried to do anything. It wasn’t like he had any goddamn clue where John might be anyway. There was no way he had much of a chance to find him if he went looking off in some random direction.

Something about saying here felt wrong though. Karkat didn’t exactly trust his own judgement on most things, but he figured just checking outside the RV wouldn’t hurt.

There wasn’t anyone out there either, and it was still day out too. Everything about that was telling him to go back inside and either wait for someone to get back or at least until the sun went down. He wasn’t going back inside though. Instead he just sort of walked around the RV, not sure where to go but not wanting to stay here.

“John? I swear to fuck this better not be some sort of game,” Karkat said as he started moving a bit further away from the RV. It was a bit of slow going, because he didn’t want to be going at all, but eventually he was completely lost. He had no idea where he was or where he was going and only a foggy idea of the way back to the RV.

Damn it. He had no fucking clue why he kept doing shit like this. He was going to get himself killed one of these days. Again.

When he ended up in a normal looking neighborhood Karkat almost turned back. He did not want to be somewhere like this, where there was way too high of a chance for someone to see him. Whatever his gut was telling him could wait. He was sure that John was fine and that he was freaking out over nothing.

Instead of actually turning around like a sane person would though, he kept on moving forward. There was no one outside. Not in the deserted feel kind of way, but just like a quiet neighborhood pretty late in the day when everyone was inside for dinner or something.

When the wind started to kick up around him was when Karkat thought that maybe there was something wrong after all and his brain wasn't just playing cruel tricks on him for the hell of it. It wasn’t like it had to be John, it could just be the wind picking up or a storm starting to brew, but for some reason he didn’t think that was right.

Karkat had no idea what the scene he walked in on was. He found John (he had no idea how, but he kind of had a feeling it wasn’t just chance either. That wasn’t something he could focus on right now though, but it was definitely a thing to keep in the back of his mind) along with the hunter that was always there. There was another man there too, that Karkat had never seen before. He figured that wasn’t too important of a fact until John actually said who it was.

Okay, this was really fucking bad. Karkat actually found himself sharing a look of surprise and confusion with the hunter. Which given the circumstances was strange but not that far out there.

“John, we should leave,” Karkat said quietly, taking a few small steps towards the other spirit. He didn’t know what was going on with his dad being here, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to stay here. The hunter wasn’t even the problem, he had been disarmed at some point and seemed just as confused as everyone else. It sure as fuck didn’t help though, especially with the injuries John already had. He didn’t look anywhere near as bad as Karkat was sure he looked the first time hunter attacked him, but there were still little bits of John's form wisping away.

“Yes, I think that would be best,” John’s father said, just barely glancing over at him, his focus still on John for the most part.

Karkat didn’t miss the look of hurt that flashed over John’s face. It was pretty obvious and this was so fucking bad. Sure, he could be wrong, but Karkat was pretty sure John hadn’t told any of his family about the whole being a murderous ghost thing. Now didn’t seem like the best time to drop that bomb either. Never in fact seemed like a good time for that.

“What? Why should we?” John asked, sounding genuinely confused. Karkat closed the distance between them, grabbing his arm and trying to pull him away. The other spirit didn’t even budge from where he was standing though. Damn it, how did he teleport last time? John would get pissed at him if he did that now but he had a feeling it would be a lot better than whatever road this was going down.

“I don’t know who or what, you are but you need to stop attacking this boy and go,” John’s father said, sounding almost angry. Karkat froze, staring at John and not sure what to do. He didn’t know what John was going to do.

“What?” he asked, not moving from his spot.

“Uh, Mr. Egbert,” the hunter spoke up, but no one bothered to even attempt to answer him.

“I said leave,” John’s father repeated, his voice hard and cold. John pulled out of Karkat’s grip with no effort whatsoever. He hadn’t even realized he was still holding onto his arm at this point.

“What? What’s wrong with you?! I don’t- don’t you recognize me?” John asked, his voice shifting from angry to small and hurt. Karkat could feel the dread building up inside of him at the cold expression that stayed on the older man’s face.

“Of course I do,” he said.

“John, seriously we need to leave.”

“Then what’s the problem?” John asked, completely ignoring Karkat. Fuck, this was going to hurt him really fucking badly and Karkat didn’t know what to do. He found himself looking over at the hunter for some sort of help because there was no one else here and he was just standing there like an idiot instead of doing anything that could be useful. He knew he most likely didn't give a shit about either John or him but he didn't have to be an asshole and just watch.

“Dude, just listen to your friend okay?” Dave finally spoke up, not that it seemed to help any.

“Shut up!” John shouted at him before turning back towards his father. “Please, just tell me what’s wrong. Aren’t you happy to see me at all?”

“You’re not him,” John’s father said, and Karkat couldn’t keep himself from flinching a bit at that. It was about what he’d expected him to say, yes, but from the utter confusion on John’s face he hadn’t at all.

“What?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I don’t know why you look and sound so much like my John, but you’re not him. He would never attack someone like this,” Mr. Egbert said.

John stayed frozen in spot for a moment, just staring at him and Karkat could see him just trying to process what he’d said. The air around them went from a deathly stillness to slowly building up faster and faster. Karkat attempted to reach out to try to calm him down or get them out of here or something, but before he could quite touch him John snapped violently in the direction of the hunter.

“You! This is all your fault!” he shouted.

“Wait a second I didn’t do anything,” he said, backing up until he was right up against the side of the house with nowhere else to go.

“John stop, this isn’t helping,” Karkat tried, grabbing John by the shoulder. He shook his hand off without even trying, a hair away from outright growling now.

“Stop talking! I’ll kill you!”

“John!” Karkat yelled, but the other spirit wasn’t even trying to listen anymore. He closed his eyes and turned away when John near instantly closed the distance between himself and the hunter.

Karkat just waited for something to happen, the wind continuing to swirl around them all without relent. He didn’t want to look to see what John might have done to the hunter. He wasn't fucking ready to see something like that so soon again.

“Let go of me!”

Karkat’s head whipped around at the shout, so fucking confused at the new sight in front of him.

The hunter was fine, and he was more relieved by that fact that he wanted to admit. He looked outright terrified, pressed up against the side of the house and just staring at where John was being held down to the ground in front of him.

“Sorry, but there’s no way I can do that right now,” Terezi said, not looking the least bit bothered by the way John was desperately trying to get out from under her. The wind was slowly starting to die down around them, as did John’s fighting. Karkat couldn’t get a clear look at his face right now, but he was pretty sure that he had started crying at some point.

Terezi sighed heavily, running a hand through her hair because apparently she didn’t even need both of them to keep the struggling spirit down. God damn it Karkat was so fucking done with these strong as all hell spirit ladies.

“What the…” John’s dad said, and Karkat could understand that sentiment.

“Coolkid, you are not making my job easy here,” Terezi said, not bothering to look at the hunter as she spoke to him.

“Uh, sorry. About that, and thanks I guess?” he said, sounding so fucking confused. Karkat was surprised when he glanced towards him like he was asking for some sort of explanation on what was going on. He had no fucking idea though, just sort of shrugging because what else could he even do at this point?

“Don’t mention it,” she said before turning towards Karkat who jolted under her gaze. “Hey, could you get over here already so we can leave?” she asked and Karkat quickly nodded before running over.

“Right, right sorry,” he said, taking one last glance back at John’s Dad and the hunter before taking a hold of Terezi’s shoulder.

The teleportation was just as terrible as it always was, but Karkat couldn’t bother with thinking about that right now. As soon as it was over he let go of Terezi, looking down at where John was still pinned to the ground. There was no more magical wind rushing hard around them, and he wasn’t fighting against them anymore either.

Terezi stood up without a word, taking a few steps back from John. The other spirit pushed himself so that he was sitting up, curling in on himself and hiding his face in his knees. He had definitely started crying at some point, and Karkat couldn’t blame him.

Karkat had no idea what to do, just standing there awkwardly. He jumped a bit when Terezi patted his shoulder, looking over at her and trying to ask what he was supposed to do without speaking out loud. She seemed to get his question, but her only answer was a shrug before disappearing. Karkat couldn’t help but let out a little huff of frustration at that. Sure, he appreciated her getting them out of there before John fucked up anything even worse than it already was, but she didn’t need to leave the second it looked like no one was in any immediate danger.

He would also like to know how she managed to show up right when they needed her to. If she’d been watching the entire time, she should have stepped in before John nearly killed the hunter. It wasn't like shit wasn't bad enough when he was having his father fucking reject him.

Whatever, he could figure all of that shit out later. Sighing, Karkat went and sat down next to John, not sure what to do besides rub at his back as he continued to hide his crying. He wasn’t sure how long they sat there for before John finally spoke up. The sun had started to set, but Karkat hadn’t known what time it was when all this had started to make any kind of guess.

“It’s so stupid,” John muttered, catching Karkat’s attention.

“What is?” he asked, not sure what he was talking about. None of this seemed particularly stupid to him. It was horrible and it sucked, but it wasn’t stupid.

“I try not to think about it, ya know? All the stuff we have to do to survive now, it’s not bad if you just don’t think about it,” John started, and Karkat wasn’t too sure where he was going with this. He could guess, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to. Instead he just nodded, waiting for the other boy to continue.

“I got really good at it too! All this killing and not caring stuff, I’m a lot stronger than I should be for how long I’ve been around. As long as I didn’t think about it, it was really cool. Or at least it was until you showed up.”

Karkat froze at that. “Me?” he asked. John just nodded, staring off ahead and not looking over at him.

“Yeah, you. It’s so stupid! I shouldn’t be jealous of you because you’re always so hurt and upset but I am!” John said, bunching both hands up in his hair in frustration. Karkat was just staring at him, trying to wrap his head around what he was saying but he couldn’t. Not a single word he said made any sense to him.

“What? Why in the world would you be jealous of me?” he asked. He couldn’t even be upset by this, he was just confused. Okay, maybe he was a little upset, but he could deal with that later too.

“You still care,” John said simply, which didn’t explain anything.

“What are you talking about?”

“You still care about things!” John repeated, throwing his hands up and finally turning to look at him. “You kill someone, and you can still cry about it. You’re still disgusted by what we do. I don't think I could cry after killing someone if I tried! You’re still human! If- if one of your parents saw you now they wouldn’t think you’re some sort of monster.”

Karkat had no idea what to say, just staring at John as he curled back up in on himself. “They wouldn’t be right to think something like that either,” he mumbled, and Karkat was pretty sure he didn’t mean for him to hear that, but he had.

“Can you just- can you promise me that you’ll try to stay like this as long as you can?” John asked quietly.

“Yeah, no problem,” Karkat said, not sure what else he could say.

“Thanks,” John said. Karkat just nodded, starting to rub at John’s back again when he noticed him hide his head back in his arms to try and keep him from seeing the tears. God, this wasn’t what he’d expected to happen today, not by a long shot.

He was really thankful that he hadn’t stayed in the RV though. He didn’t want John going through this alone.

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